November/December 2020 | Vol. 25 No. 6
by Jake Saunders, Vice President, Asia-Pacific & Advisory Services, ABI Research
Fifth generation (5G) cellular connectivity is here: as of September 2020, we are counting more than 15,000 full commercial 5G deployments globally, with currently 137 communication service providers (CSPs) having launched 5G services in the consumer
The true potential of 5G, however, lies in its ability to facilitate a wide range of applications and services beyond the end-user market. 5G connectivity offers a wider latitude and versatility that can bring substantial value to a diverse range of enterprise
verticals. This increased versatility allows for connectivity scenarios that provide meaningful business impact in varying industry verticals such as healthcare, energy, automotive, and smart cities.
Industrial manufacturing, in particular, stands to gain considerable value from 5G. The need for more adaptive, agile processes requires a shift to networks that can provide higher data rates, lower latencies, and reliable connectivity to more devices
and machines. 5G connectivity is positioned to be a cornerstone in delivering highly deterministic networks for missioncritical processes on the factory floor.
5G Connectivity Scenarios for the Consumer and Enterprise
Contrary to previous cellular generations that focused solely on consumer use cases and mostly smartphones, 5G aims to introduce a plethora of enterprise applications and support from a diverse set of devices. While 4G aimed to increase data speeds and
network capacity, 5G introduces three distinct areas of focus:
- Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) services are generally oriented toward data-intensive, consumer-driven use cases such as 4K/8K ultra-highdefinition (UHD) videos, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), cloud gaming, and enhanced
- The massive machine type communication (mMTC) aspect of 5G is based on providing cheap and stable connectivity to an exponentially larger number of low-power, low-data-consuming devices and nodes without overloading
the network. This increased pervasiveness of connected equipment and devices in enterprise settings would create highly contextualized decision-making in processes like predictive maintenance and energy management in Smart Grids.
- 5G’s ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) framework is designed to support highly deterministic networks for mission-critical processes through robust reliability (<1 packet loss in 10⁵ packets; 99.999%) and latency
rates as low as 1 ms.
Addressing Enterprise Use Cases in the Official 5G Standard
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), hosted by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), defines the Standards for 5G connectivity. 3GPP is an industry-led consortium, where delegates from hundreds of leading companies discuss
and democratically agree on the best technology to put forward for standardization.
3GPP Release 15 is the first full set of 5G Standards with a main focus on eMBB and consumer use cases; it sets the basis for mMTC and URLLC requirements as well. However, it is Releases 16 and 17 that
are expected to provide critical updates and formalized Standards for the enterprise-oriented URLLC and mMTC scenarios.
Coalescing 5G Standards for the diverse set of industries is essential for accelerated digital transformation adoption. Having unified Standards and common communication protocols will facilitate tighter collaboration between network infrastructure vendors,
CSPs, and original equipment manufacturers in delivering robust networks that implementors can confidently depend on.
Because of 5G’s provision of multi-dimensional connectivity scenarios, it expands high-data applications from consumer-driven use cases to cater to a diverse set of industry verticals.
The extension of cellular connectivity to new use cases and verticals has important implications on existing networking technology as well as the sale of auxiliary products. The implications of 5G on the seven major
U.S. markets that NEMA serves are summarized in Table 1.
Why 5G in Manufacturing?
5G is certainly a powerful communication Standard, but industrial manufacturing already has several connectivity Standards, both proprietary (e.g., Profinet) as well as open (e.g., OPC UA and Industrial Ethernet). Wi-Fi is also well established in the
However, all existing technologies lack the carrier- grade and robust nature that 5G can offer, which can include full support for mobility throughout a factory floor. For example, an automated guided vehicle (AGV) may lose connectivity for seconds when
entering the coverage area of a new Wi-Fi access point and leaving another. This may cause continuity challenges for the AGV platform, which can even stop operating.
On the other hand, 4G and 5G offer “handover” between cellular access points in milliseconds, something that Wi-Fi cannot achieve without proprietary extensions. Because of this more robust handover, AGVs controlled via cellular connectivity
can be operated with up to 30% higher speeds; this translates to a significant operational efficiency boost compared with typical AGVs.
This is just one example where 5G can revolutionize the way factories are being built and become the foundation for digital twins, reconfigurable production lines, and even “lights-out” factories. The following use cases have already been
deployed in existing factories around the world:
- Osram, Philips, and Deutsche Telekom have prototyped and tested a mobile robotics platform in an Osram factory in Germany, using a private cellular 4G network.
- Edzcom (previously Ukkoverkot), a private cellular network operator, has deployed numerous private
Ford UK is deploying a private 5G network in its electric car factory in the UK in order to speed up the production of car batteries.
This short list of deployments and trials is a small sample of what 5G can achieve. With the completion of 3GPP Release 16, ABI Research expects manufacturers and the supply chain to rapidly create new products and start deploying them in 2020.
5G will accelerate enterprise digitization and improve efficiency as well as productivity across several verticals. Manufacturing is a particularly interesting vertical for two reasons: it has stringent requirements for connectivity that 5G can fulfill
and is also in the middle of the Industry 4.0 transformation. 5G can be a key pillar for automation and digitization in manufacturing, and its diverse set of features,
including eMBB, URLLC, and mMTC, can fulfill even the most demanding factory floor requirements. The transition to 5G will not be an overnight process, but ABI Research expects 5G to be fully entrenched in the manufacturing space in 2026. ei
Table 1: 5G Implications on NEMA Markets (Source: ABI Research)
||To address backhaul considerations resulting from the high data throughput, cable trays, busses, and ties need to be designed to accommodate additional fiber deployments.
||In-building systems will be upgraded to 5G, driving demand for new components, including cables, connectors, and other peripherals.
|Industrial Products & Systems
||TSN, CoMP, mMTC, and URLLC transmissions will increase reliability and efficiency in manufacturing through integration IT, OT, and CT domains.
||Integration of sensors, networks, and LED infrastructure in 5G Smart Grid applications will increase demand for connected lighting controls, light sources, and emergency lighting.
Medical Imaging and Technology
|Anticipating a lifecycle of >10 years for medical equipment, the deployment of cellular connectivity will require the retrofitting of medical equipment and devices, increasing demand for chipsets and processors. Furthermore, existing patient
data management Standards (e.g., FHIR, HL7) might need to be adjusted to guarantee full functionality when being applied to a cellular network.
|Utility Products & Systems
||Smart 5G connected microgrids require the combination of intelligence (AI) with conventional utility products and systems. The demand for smart meters and intelligent capacitor solutions will rise. The powering of necessary infrastructure
for cellular network deployments will increase demand for electrical connectors.
|5G-enabled intelligent transportation systems (ITS) will increase the demand for data processing capabilities in the car and the network infrastructure, requiring more powerful chipsets and processors. To guarantee full interoperability between
LTE-V2X and NR-V2X, dual chipsets will be required, supporting both 4G LTE and 5G NR.