5G as a Private Network for IIoT

While roll-outs for 5G consumer networks have been slower than anticipated, mobile operators and 5G equipment suppliers are expanding into the potential 14-million-site private wireless market. These private LTE networks leverage localized micro towers and small cells, making them operate much like a scaled-down version of a public cellular network.

As a result, the manufacturing sector now accounts for a majority of private network installations, and we expect this trend to continue. According to Deloitte research, “by 2024 the value of cellular mobile equipment and services for use in private networks will likely add up to tens of billions of dollars annually.”

Just as the adoption of previous connectivity technologies was spurred by evolving business requirements, the case for 5G is no different. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), in particular, is largely responsible for this demand. A growing number of interconnected devices, spanning the gamut from sensors to actuators to Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), need to talk to each other and to the cloud in real time. Other driving technologies include Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence(AI).

What all of these technologies have in common is that they demand lots of computing resources, both locally and on the network. This has led manufacturers around the world to look to private 5G as a solution.

Why 5G?

The first main advantage of 5G is known as Ultra-reliable low-latency communication (uRLLC), which includes two main features. First, 5G offers the “six nines” of reliability: a 99.9999% reliability rate, or an expected downtime of just five minutes per year. This is equivalent to a wired Ethernet connection. Second, a private 5G network features sub-millisecond latency. Compared to the following, which shows the latency of a Wi-Fi 6 connection on the local network, 5G offers a significantly lower ping rate.

This matters because reliability and latency are two of the biggest concerns for an industrial network. Manufacturers require high uptime and low latency because their equipment relies on real-time control (RTC) and because unexpected downtime directly correlates to lost revenue or, even worse, the liability of machine failure or personnel injury.

Another reason for adopting 5G is higher throughput. A 5G network offers speeds up to 10 GBPS, which is slightly higher than the cap for Wi-Fi 6 and over 10 times faster than 4G LTE. A high-speed internet connection unlocks the true potential velocity of the smart factory.

This is especially important when so many devices are simultaneously communicating with each other over the network, which brings us to our next point: 5G allows much greater density, up to 1 million connections per square kilometer. For a 100,000 square-meter factory, that translates into up to 100,000 connected devices. This enables the German chemicals company, BASF, to connect around 600,000 networked sensors and other devices at its main production facility in Ludwigshafen.

Plus, 5G can also function in environments with metal obstructions. 5G Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP) is crucial for industrial applications because it creates a mesh network where multiple transmitters create redundant paths to the receiver, preventing cranes, belts, robots, or other equipment from blocking its path.

Finally, private 5G networks are secure by design. Administrators have full control over network segmentations for mission-critical applications as well as access to tooling for authorization and access controls. Especially considering the recent news of a widespread security breach by a foreign adversary, cybersecurity needs to be a top priority for all organizations. In particular, private 5G networks are attractive because they minimize the network’s access points to the outside internet and decrease the network’s overall attack surface.

Private 5G Use Cases: Today’s Smart Factories

Hundreds of leading manufacturers are already partnering with telecommunications companies to install private 5G networks on their smart factory floors. For instance, Ericsson, a top 5G provider, partnered with China Mobile to automate “approximately 1,000 high-precision screwdrivers in a factory that require routine calibration and lubrication based on utilization times.”

By replacing a tedious, manual process with IIoT devices that function over 5G, they were able to cut the total amount of work by 50%. Ericsson explains that this was possible because “the high-precision tools were fitted with real-time motion sensors that

were attached to NB-IoT modules. The data runs via a cellular IoT network over the company’s private cloud and back-end systems, which make automatic calculations and intelligent analyses of the collected data.”

The automotive industry is another pioneer of industrial 5G. Take, for example, the partnership between Nokia and Toyota. In June of 2020, Nokia was selected by Toyota Production Engineering Corporation (TPEC) to deploy an industrial-grade private wireless network at a manufacturing design center in Fukuoka, Japan. This move was a result of the manufacturer’s mission to “evolve into a more automated operating environment.”

Donny Janssens, Customer Team Head of Enterprise for Nokia Japan, explained that “Working with NSSOL (NS Solutions) as our systems integration partner, our 5G-ready private wireless network solution will enable TPEC to integrate next-generation manufacturing use cases that help to accelerate its digital transformation, and realize its future automotive IoT vision. Together with NSSOL, and Toyota’s closest partner TPEC, we are delivering a breakthrough in the domestic automotive industry.”

Other players in the industry are following suit. Between BMW’s investment in GenXComm 5G technology and Ford’s move to future-proof electric car manufacturing with a 5G smart factory, we expect more and more manufacturers to switch over to 5G in order to remain competitive.

Conclusion

When we talk about Industry 4.0, we usually talk about the emerging technologies that are forcing manufacturers to rethink the way they do business. Between IIoT, AI, AR, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, autonomous robots and more, these solutions are coming together to create a manufacturing landscape that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

However, without the right underpinnings, these technologies are ineffective at best and harmful at their worst. In order for information technology to be successful, we need a way to quickly, reliably, and securely move data from one machine to another. That’s where communication protocols like 5G enter the picture.

Phoenix Contact, Quectel, and Ericsson are paving the path toward this 5G future. In 2020, the three companies worked together to develop and deploy the first industrial 5G router for local industrial applications in a private 5G network. With the help of the newly developed 5G Router, industrial applications, such as machines, controls, and other equipment, can now be connected to a private 5G network and thus be orchestrated in their resource usage, priority, and behavior.

While 5G may just be the newest iteration of wireless networking, it has the capability to digitally transform industries and create applications that are not possible with today’s technology.

Published By Paul McClusky

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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