5G private networks enable business everywhere

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The manufacturing industry is exploring 5G technology at an accelerated pace, largely to enable AI-driven use cases such as closed-loop manufacturing, adaptive manufacturing, predictive analytics for maintenance, and extended reality (XR)-based worker training and safety, says Jagadeesh Dantuluri, general manager for private and dedicated networks at Keysight Technologies. He says, “It’s not about an assembly line that performs the same action over and over again. It’s about one that can adapt to their needs.” Private networks are essentially able to enable new business models in manufacturing. “

But, 5G private networks have many benefits beyond just manufacturing. 5G private networks are expected to drive innovation in many industries and enterprises because they offer more reliable connectivity, faster data speeds and lower latency.

The benefits of 5G private networks

A private cellular network is built on 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)-defined standards (such as LTE or 5G), but it offers dedicated on-premise coverage. This is crucial for remote facilities that do not have access to public networks or are not able to provide strong indoor coverage. Private networks also make use of all available capacity. There is no contention with other network users as there is on a public network. Private operators can also create their own security policies to authorise users, prioritize traffic, as well as to ensure that sensitive data doesn’t leave the premises without authorization.

The dedicated nature 5G private networks combined with a customized service and URLLC capabilities makes it more reliable for industrial wireless communication for a wide range of use cases. Dantuluri says that applications include wireless, real time, closed-loop control and process automation, as well as AI-based production and AR/VR design for onsite or remote workers. Low-cost connectivity also allows sensors to be easily deployed in a wider range of situations, allowing businesses to create new applications and collect real time data .

The industrial sector is driving toward a massive digital transformation, and the integration of information-technology (IT) systems with operational-technology (OT) systems will speed up this process. Many new uses of digital technologies, such as automated manufacturing, will be possible thanks to the use of digital technologies.

A 5G private network allows a facility to synchronize tracking data and integrate it into its workflow, allowing production lines can be configured in real-time, says Dantuluri. It is much easier to configure or move assembly elements as required, since the factory’s infrastructure and assembly lines, such as robot arms, autonomous mobile robots, and autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs), are wirelessly connected. This use case requires high-quality, reliable, low-latency wireless connectivity. It also requires coverage and data rates. In the future, Time Sensitive networks (TSN )) may be supported. This use case application can only be achieved with 5G private networks.”

Outside the industrial sector, 5G private networks enable mobile augmented-reality (AR) and virtual-reality (VR) applications, allowing, for example, engineers to view superimposed blueprints, soldiers to have heads-up displays, and businesses to have virtual meetings in the field or working remotely. Dantuluri says that AR goggles can be used to overlay technical information on a real-world device in order to diagnose and repair problems. “And the data centre can send instructions on how to repair the machine, step by step. “

As enterprises realize the benefits from pervasive, low latency, high-bandwidth and secure connectivity, 5G private networks will become more popular. By the end of 2024, analysts expect investment in 5G private networks will add up to tens of billions of dollars. A separate analysis by the research arm of investment firm JP Morgan predicts that the global enterprise opportunity for 5G will exceed $700 billion by 2030.

Better security

5G private networks have improved upon previous 4G standalone network security and are better able to address several existing security threats. While 5G private networks are likely to have security issues, it is important that security be considered in developing standards for 5G as well as in implementing the technology. In addition, companies can further augment those security features with novel technologies, such as more robust encryption schemes and zero trust architecture, as private networks afford complete control to its owner–a benefit not possible on public networks.

Dantuluri says that security improvements will drive new and innovative applications in high-security areas like airports and seaports. He says that private networks offer the flexibility and mobility seaports need. “In airports, engine data can be downloaded before the plane docks at the gate. This saves time and helps airlines keep on schedule. ”

Wireless flexibility

Most manufacturing machines are tied to wired networks. However, better connectivity and security mean that connected devices can move more freely and remain connected to the necessary systems and data. 5G networks allow devices to stay connected while moving between cells. Wi-Fi networks, on the other hand, require that devices reconnect after they move.

This advantage is useful in situations where a large area must be covered by a wireless connection, Dantuluri states. He says that facilities such as mines, airports, or seaports require a large geographic coverage of at least several kilometers. “Other wireless technology has very limited range, making it unsuitable to these use cases. ” There are also benefits for remote applications. For example, offshore oil rigs rely on separate satellite communications and local network connections. 5G private network connections are more secure and interoperable. They also reduce the cost of hybrid communication by combining satellite, cellular, local area and satellite networks.

A revolution in connectivity

Industry has quickly evolved over the past two decades, from steam-powered machines automating manufacturing, to assembly lines simplifying production, to computerized systems creating more precise products. Machine learning and reliable connectivity will make Industry 4.0 a reality.

Every industry will use Industry 4.0 advances for their operations. 5G private networks are crucial to this effort. Dantuluri says that automation is a significant aspect of modern life, but it is all done with wires. This makes it difficult to customize systems, such as industrial robots, sensors, and robotics. As 5G private network adoption grows, all systems will become automated and connected with low latency wireless, which will allow adaptive business models. “

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.

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