When we wrote our introductory 5G book three years ago, our goal was to help people with experience building Internet and cloud services to understand the opportunity to bring best practices from those systems to the mobile cellular network. On paper (and in the press) 5G had set an ambitious goal of transformative changes, adopting a cloud-inspired architecture and supporting a new set of innovative services. But the gap between that aspirational story and the reality of 40 years of network operators and hardware vendors protecting their incumbent advantages made for a challenging pivot. So we started with the basics, and set out to explain the fundamental networking concepts and design principles behind the myriad of acronyms that dominate mobile cellular networking.

Because 5G adopts many of the principles of cloud native systems, it promises to bring the feature velocity of the cloud to Telco environments. That promise is being delivered most successfully in private 5G deployments that are less constrained by existing Telco organizations and legacy infrastructure. What started out as sketches on a whiteboard three years ago is now becoming a reality: Several cloud providers are offering private 5G solutions for enterprises, and there is a complete open source implementation of a 5G-enabled edge cloud that the Internet community can learn from and build upon.

The architecture described in this book is not limited to private deployments. It includes the necessary background information about the mobile cellular network, much of which is rooted in its origin story as a Telco voice network, but the overarching theme is to describe the network through the lens of private deployments of 5G connectivity as a managed cloud service. This includes adopting best practices in horizontally scalable microservices, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and cloud operational practices such as DevOps. These practices are appropriate for traditional operators, cloud providers, and enterprises alike, but it is emerging use cases in private deployments that will benefit first.

The book makes extensive use of open source software—specifically, the Aether and Magma projects—to illustrate how Private 5G can be realized in practice. The availability of open software informs our understanding of what has historically been a proprietary and opaque system. The result complements the low-level engineering documents that are available online (and to which we provide links) with an architectural roadmap for anyone trying to understand all the moving parts, how they fit together, and how they can be operationalized. And once you’re done reading the book, we encourage you to jump into the hands-on appendix that walks you through the step-by-step process of deploying that software in your own local computing environment.


The software described in this book is due to the hard work of the ONF engineering team, the Magma engineering team, and the open source communities that work with them. A special thanks to Ajay Thakur, Andy Bavier, and Gabriel Arrobo, who were enormously helpful in getting Aether OnRamp (described in the About the Software Appendix) up and running.

Thanks to the members of the community who contributed text or corrections to the book, including:

  • Edmar Candeia Gurjão

  • Muhammad Shahbaz

  • Mugahed Izzeldin

  • Robert MacDavid

  • Simon Leinen

  • Tiago Barros

  • Gabriel Arrobo

  • Ajay Thakur

The picture of a Magma deployment in Chapter 5 was provided by Shaddi Hasan.

Larry Peterson, Oguz Sunay, and Bruce Davie
April 2023