The fifth generation of mobile networks is going to mean much more than superfast broadband. According to a Nokia study, 5G could contribute $8 trillion to the world GDP by 2030, and industries as seemingly far removed from telecoms as mining, healthcare, entertainment and transport could all reap massive benefits.
Asset-intensive industries are already benefiting from mobile networks that enable them to use automation and digitalisation to source resources sustainably, power, operate and service machinery, manufacture products, and get them to market.
The 5G story started in the early 2010s, when autonomous trucks at a Rio Tinto mine in Australia mysteriously stopped working. Alan Seery, the head of infrastructure and communications strategy, found the culprit was interference from wi-fi installed by a third-party contractor to connect two buildings. After auditing all the company’s wireless applications, he realised they needed a licensed-spectrum solution to stop incidents like this happening again. This led to the world’s first 4G/LTE private wireless network.
The third industrial revolution – the rise of computers and the internet – had a profound impact on services businesses like the media and the financial industry. But asset-heavy businesses that handled a lot of physical materials, industrial equipment and production lines missed out on this revolution. Office wi-fi networks aren’t designed for mobility or operational tech applications and don’t translate well to this kind of setting
The fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0 – is set to change all that. Powered by 4.9G (the latest 4G/LTE) mobile networks, and soon by 5G, Industry 4.0 will be able to connect devices reliably on the move. These networks can handle difficult radio environments, providing bigger capacity and coverage and improved signal penetration. Even better, they offer predictable lower latency, which is vital for connecting machines to machines, especially in areas like robotics where instructions have to translate to reactions with no delay variation.
What’s more, mobile networks can help industry meet its emissions goals. According to research by the Carbon Trust and industry body GSMA, although 5G networks do produce emissions themselves, through automation and digitalisation they could cut emissions in other sectors by 10 times that amount.
Private wireless networks provide standalone wireless broadband for industrial assets and users. Many industries like mining, factories, warehouses, utilities, public safety, ports, airports, and smart cities own and use such networks. We can expect to see 14 million sites with private wireless networks by 2030.
Advantages of 5G
Latency is the delay between an instruction and a reaction in a network. Ultra-reliable low latency is a major advantage of 5G. It’s vital when users can’t afford to lose connection for even a couple of seconds, such as in remote surgery or self-driving cars.
Network slicing is another innovative advantage. Instead of offering all users the same service, 5G creates networks-within-networks to serve different needs for different users, or even for the same user. For example, a sports stadium might have one slice for broadcasting, another for security cameras, and another to provide wi-fi for fans. This would enable it to give priority to the broadcasting and security slices and avoid a surge of fan activity eating their bandwidth.
Edge computing reduces latency by cutting out the need to send data long distances, allowing cloud computations at the ‘edge’ of the network. In robotics, this means most of the computing power can be moved to the network core, lightning up the robots’ ‘brains’ and making them cheaper and less energy-hungry.
Faster 5G adoption
All these advantages mean 5G will be able to connect many new and innovative applications, up to a million devices per 0.38 square miles. It’s time for service providers to educate businesses and consumers about what 5G can do for them.