How 5G can bridge the physical and the digital to bring us Industry 4.

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Industry 4.0 is just around the corner – the fully automated end of the rainbow of digital transformation. Public 5G networks are built from the outside in, meaning they cannot guarantee reliable coverage in every corner of every room where an industrial facility would require it. However, private 5G networks can do this.

With its capacity for massive machine-to-machine communications and ultra-low latency, large enterprises can achieve new heights in operational efficiency with their own private 5G wireless networks. 5G was developed for this!

As more industry leaders join the ranks of Bosch, Ford, Fujitsu, General Motors and others who have rolled out private 5G networks in their facilities and seen success, the rest of the world is likely to follow.

5G IS A WHOLE NEW ANIMAL

Smartphones gave us a serious boost in efficiency when they first came out, but connections were terrible back then, until 4G showed up to save the day. It was set up and built almost entirely to support the growing use of smartphones, and suddenly streaming music and movies in the palm of your hand became a new reality.

There are already over six billion smartphones in the world today, and another 1.5 billion will be in circulation worldwide by 2026. While 4G revolutionized smartphones, it was never designed to reliably support the high-precision, real-time robotics and massive machine-to-machine communication industries need to automate. Industry 4.0 needs a whole new reality.

Home wireless networks bring the power of 5G to the heart of an enterprise. 5G offers massive bandwidth, high data rates, extremely low latency, high security, reliability and scalability for more devices. Connecting devices to the Internet of Things facilitates automation, which can improve efficiency for all industries at all stages of production. In 2017, research predicted that the IoT would grow from 27 billion connected devices to 125 billion by 2030. 4G was never meant to handle this – and with 5G private networks, it doesn’t have to.

PRIVATE NETWORKS BRING A NEW LEVEL OF CONTROL

With cybersecurity concerns, organizations may want more control over all of their data by housing it within their own firewalls rather than on a public network or shared Wi-Fi spectrum. With private wireless networks, no one can use your network without your express consent. A business can decide which applications it needs to run and where on the premises it needs reliable coverage. By controlling your own network, you control its performance.

You may have a rough idea of ​​what your network usage is today, but ask any IT organization what it will be like tomorrow and chances are nobody has a clue. With new applications and devices coming onto the network every day, who could predict tomorrow’s business needs?

Imagine a company that runs its applications on a wireless network and thinks its requirements are X, but forgets to calculate a data-dense system like video camera surveillance. They end up exceeding their budgeted costs after just a few hours of use and start paying overages at 6am on the first of every month. However, with a private 5G network, even if a business misjudges its needs, it still has unlimited data usage without the risk of a performance hit. There would be no impact at all.

A NEW WAY TO FLY

4G is enough to handle consumer smartphone usage, but residential 5G coverage can really make a difference in industries with large volumes of data-intensive devices that require high-latency exchanges, such as manufacturing plants, warehouses and airports. Airports require many wireless systems, including a public cellular network, public Wi-Fi, a private cellular network for operational communications, and public safety nets for security.

With its ability to unify and future-proof airport communications, experts are calling 5G the only wireless option. While consumer traffic travels over separate Wi-Fi or carrier networks, private 5G would enable airports to keep critical business applications on their own wireless networks, preserving that space in data usage and providing greater predictability.

An airport is a place of dynamic movement that is constantly happening, so getting coverage everywhere is a challenge. When people drop off their luggage at the ticket counter, the airline clerk scans it into the system to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go, but if it goes under the terminal onto the tarmac, someone has to scan it again.

Efficient tracking should be as timely as possible, but requires a reliable network when items are moving around the airport. Many passengers using Wi-Fi simultaneously clip the airport’s limited network capacity, and airport scanners may not get a connection.

This happens all the time, usually when the airport is at its busiest and they depend the most on their applications. Rather than that perfect storm causing delays, airports powered by their own 5G networks can enable a more seamless way to fly.

Based on some of our first operational efficiency data collected at a major airport hub, we are already seeing significant disparities in private 5G network usage. Still, there are hurdles in the way. Research has shown that 5G can operate safely on radio waves, known as the C-band spectrum, without interfering with aircraft radio altimeters that measure vertical altitude, but the Federal Aviation Administration has lingering concerns about rolling out 5G near airports.

Unlike public 5G services, private 5G allows airports to control their coverage in well-defined areas on the ground, not while planes are in the air. It also runs on a completely separate frequency band, far removed from aircraft equipment, making interference impossible and eliminating those hurdles.

Despite the resistance, the confusion surrounding 5G is likely to settle as more companies roll out private networks with the potential to far outperform the rest. Obstacles may slow the transition, but Industry 4.0 is moving forward in full force.


Johan Bjorklund is CEO of Betacom, where he combines industry experience with a strategic and operational focus on building and growing.

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