Will 5G be the technology to deliver Industry 4.0?

John Harris, Global R&D Director and Frank Wüstefeld, Senior Sales Engineer at Panasonic Mobile Solutions Business Division

We have all seen the exciting science fiction future where technology appears to have become ubiquitous and seamlessly integrated with everything around us. Intelligent virtual reality assistants, healing machines and devices that replace monotonous tasks and respond to our every request – you know the story. Many are predicting the introduction of 5G will underpin moves to these developments; in particular, the fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0, where everything is connected, processed and digitised.

The Demand for 5G

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There is certainly an appetite for 5G across Europe. We are seeing data usage doubling each year and consumer services, such as streaming, driving much of this traffic. In this area, this desire for data consumption is only going to continue with the wider adoption of 4k and 8K viewing.

In the business environment, the obvious benefit of a 5G connected world is the ability to connect billions of devices to deliver the Internet of Things (IoT). This connectivity will not only supercharge the ability for industry to automate but also enable the delivery of the next level of digital transformation such as Augmented and Virtual Reality, Robotics, real-time translation, training and E-health applications.

So how will 5G take us to the next level? In linguistic terms, the move from 4G to 5G seems just a small step but in technological terms it is immense. 5G has the capability to deliver Enhanced or extreme mobile broadband (eMBB) of up to 20Gbps. That’s 10 times faster than 4G LTE, for example, just 3 seconds to download a 2 hour movie.

5G also delivers much higher reliability & lower latency (one tenth of 4G LTE), which is essential for critical Machine Type Communication  (cMTC) used in the remote operation of manufacturing, factories and other widespread industry controls.

The scale of connectivity also leaps to another level with Massive machine type communication (mMTC) enabling 1 million connections / km² (10 times more than 4G LTE).

Lastly, 5G networks promise to be more flexible with network slicing a possibility. This is when a physical network can be divided into multiple virtual networks, so the operator can use the right ‘slice’ depending on the requirements of the use case. Alternatively, businesses could use this flexibility to create what are effectively their own private 5G networks.

Sounds almost too good to be true but there are still some challenges for the mobile network providers and businesses to consider. The limited roll-out of 5G services to date has been using the sub 6 GHz frequency. This is a relatively straightforward upgrade for the mobile smart phone network but does not unleash the full bandwidth capabilities of 5G technology. That comes with the use of the Millimeter Wave (MM Wave) spectrum.

At a recent industry event, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said, “Real 5G is really the combination of sub 6 and millimetre wave, and that’s going to happen on a global scale. We made the prediction that by 2021, all leading economies will have millimetre wave deployed, and as you think of the use cases beyond smartphones, millimetre wave is required.”

Millimetre wave is part of conversations across many different kinds of industries and it will be part of both public and private 5G networks, he said, adding that with dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) capabilities, existing 4G spectrum will get upgraded and co-exist with 5G.

And Qualcomm thinks the potential is huge for business. According to their study, by 2035, 5G could underpin up to $12.3 trillion (£9.3 trillion) worth of goods and services in industries such as retail, healthcare, education, transportation, entertainment and more.

Qualcomm reckons the 5G value chain will generate up to $3.5 trillion (£2.65 trillion) in revenue in 2035, and support as many as 22 million jobs. Qualcomm has also forecast that 5G will boost global GDP growth by $3 trillion (£2.27 trillion) cumulatively from 2020 to 2035.

So, what are these use business use cases beyond smartphones that will drive this growth?

They are wide and varied across many industries. The smart factory and manufacturing are obvious areas with the connectivity of the IoT driving automation and efficiencies to a new level.

5G will enable logistics and transportation to revolutionise with the potential for automated vehicles and remote monitoring as well as automated operations.

Retail could see Augmented Reality delivered across 5G networks transforming the shopping experience as well IoT connected devices massively streamlining the supply chain.

It seems there is much for business to look forward to with the roll-out of 5G networks across Europe. The time is right to begin planning how your business and industry sector can take competitive advantage of the new capabilities these technologies will unleash and the additional efficiencies, productivity and working environment it could deliver for your mobile workforce.

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