Open 5G campus networks: key drivers for 6G innovations
5G was designed to enable and unify Industrial Internet communication. Emerging 5G campus networks, in particular, provide a flexible communication infrastructure option addressing the specific needs of industry verticals regarding low latency, resilience, security, and operation models. Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Edge Computing have paved the way for vendor-independent, customized, and scalable network designs for the past decade. Today, Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) principles extend this architectural thinking toward an innovative and open 5G end-to-end infrastructure. 5G campus networks, in particular, might benefit from this envisaged openness. One key driver for boosting the global interest in private campus networks was the allocation of a dedicated 5G spectrum in Germany in 2019. In addition to permanent spectrum allocations for static campus network deployments, nomadic ad hoc campus network deployments using novel mechanisms, such as dynamic spectrum access and trading, also emerge. Both network types are enabled by the inherent flexibility of combining or disaggregating the desired open 5G RAN and core components in appropriate network deployments. Building upon years of experience in developing and operating 5G network cores and 5G testbeds, the authors provide an overview of the emerging global campus network market, available spectrum options, use cases for nomadic campus network deployments, and the need for open campus networks and open end-to-end technology testbeds. Utilizing the Fraunhofer FOKUS Open5GCore, the 5G Playground testbed, and the 5G+ Nomadic Node as examples, the paper sketches a blueprint for campus networks for international, applied research and development. Ending with an outlook on the evolution of campus networks, namely the transition toward higher spectrums and the integration of non-terrestrial networks, but also the adoption of more agile software principles and the deeper integration of AI/ML technologies for network control and management, it will become obvious that open campus network innovations will pave the way toward 6G.