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5G - a revolution for industry 4.0

17/09/2019 Consulting

5G - the next evolution for wireless information exchange

The latest established network standard, LTE, is about to be replaced by 5G. Increased bandwidths and better service quality: for end customers, 5G represents a noticeable evolutionary step of the previous mobile communications standards. But unlike the switch from 3G to LTE, the introduction of 5G will bring much greater changes. Although these remain largely hidden from private users, they can become the key to the breakthrough of many modern technologies. Industry and politics expect a successful introduction to provide a clear boost to Germany's innovative strength as a business location.

This is made possible by combining several existing transmission technologies into one network. Through a complex interaction of hardware and software components, 5G integrates the fixed network in addition to the existing mobile network. Great opportunities for commercial applications arise from the special features of 5G, i.e. connecting more devices to the radio station in a smaller space and adapting the network performance flexibly to the requirements of the respective application. Using so-called network slicing, the network can be divided into virtual sections which differ in terms of transmission rate, response time and connection density. Suitable antenna systems can thus serve individual terminal devices with an individually adapted signal with high energy efficiency. However, to ensure that there is no bottleneck in the network quality, the radio stations must be connected to the access networks via fiber optics.

Applications for future mobile communications

The application cases for the new mobile communications standard can be divided into three categories: Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) and Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communication (URLLC).

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

Applications in this group are primarily aimed at private users, who can enjoy high-resolution video streaming, AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) thanks to the increased bandwidth. These technologies also offer great potential for commercial users. AR and VR can significantly increase efficiency in areas such as customer service, employee qualification and quality management.

Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC)

The potential in the area of mMTC, where the possibility of networking a very high number of heterogeneous terminal devices is in the foreground, is newer. This corresponds to the core idea of the Internet of Things (IoT), into which vehicles as well as animals, objects or people can be integrated. Smart farming, smart cities or e-health are the focus here. For example, sensors integrated in wearables can be used to remotely monitor vital data and initiate appropriate measures via actuators. Such an intelligent system can, for example, make milking and feeding dairy cattle more efficient. In logistics , for example, the availability of real-time information enables the management of increasingly complex value creation networks.

Although some companies already rely on the predecessor standard LTE for industrial applications, experts agree that it is only through 5G that many use cases of the Internet of Things (IoT) can be broadly implemented . With the new mobile communications standard, speed, stability and security will for the first time meet the justifiably critical requirements. Many grippers and drive units attached to industrial robots are still connected by cable today. However, intensive vibrations and frequent movements cause high wear and tear and corresponding maintenance costs. According to automation experts from the industry, 5G makes radio communication a fully-fledged alternative for the first time.

While 5G here makes the network supply more efficient and increases the possible number of subscribers, the standard makes other applications possible in the first place: With its increased supply security, it removes an obstacle for particularly safety-critical applications that are in the third category. 

Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communication (URLLC)

The communication Vehicle to Everthing (V2X) as required for automated driving demonstrates the importance of high supply quality and safety. This also applies to applications in industry 4.0, which represents the implementation of the IoT concept in the production environment. Whether it is the interaction of robots with production equipment or driverless transport systems, the concern that business-critical information will not reach its destination reliably is problematic for the acceptance of such solutions in companies. Read more about the role cybersecurity plays in industry 4.0.

5G model regions as impulse generators for the rollout

The first steps have been taken with the completed licensing to telecommunications companies and the availability of the corresponding hardware, so that users can check their use cases and determine requirements. While the large network operators will start the commercial use of the network in 2020, companies or municipalities can set up local 5G networks in reserved frequency ranges and thus create their own environment for data exchange. This allows them to connect individual sites, factories or business parks regardless of the coverage provided by telecommunications companies. This should accelerate the implementation of 5G applications in industry 4.0.

The declared political goal of making Germany the lead market for 5G is no coincidence: on the one hand, many components for industry 4.0 come from Germany, and on the other, the potential for increasing efficiency is to be tapped for all manufacturing companies. In an international comparison, however, Germany does not yet appear to be living up to its claim. Experts currently see an advantage for Japan, the USA, China and India in network expansion and test operation. But even there it will probably take until 2025 before almost complete coverage with the new radio standard is achieved.

The rapid and efficient local introduction of 5G mobile radio is supported by an extensive funding programme of the Federal Government, which provides concept funding for 50 regions. Here the technology is to be tested in a real environment, whereby the most promising concepts subsequently receive further implementation support. At the same time, six research institutions and universities were endowed with federal funds for intensive research into 5G.

Lusatia, which was particularly hard hit by the withdrawal from lignite, was the first region to receive a production commitment. Here, a test field for large-scale tests focusing on automated flying, driving and construction is to be created. The test field has a signal effect for the region, because the early development of concrete applications for the new standard is regarded as an important success factor for industry. The business location Saxony, by the way also seat of the ARTS Head Office, with its large density of companies from the field of microelectronics and IT, offers the optimal environment for this.

The key to our success lies in the consistent implementation

Experts from industry and politics agree: The benefits of 5G can only be fully realized if the high requirements of availability, reliability, responsiveness and safety can be met. If this is the case, the standard can become the door opener for many future technologies that have already been developed. In addition, worldwide locations also compete in terms of implementation speed.

One thing seems clear: industry and business must work together to make the introduction of the 5G network a success. In addition to the short-term creation of test opportunities for pilot applications, this also includes ambitious targets for network coverage and government commitment to the expansion of the underlying infrastructure. If successful, 5G can lead to significant innovation and make the vision of a networked world a reality.

At ARTS, this positive development is being observed with great attention. Whether information and communication technology, aerospace, mechanical engineering or the automotive industry - we are always on the lookout for motivated experts who can work with us to advance the development of the industry and realize visionary ideas and visions. With our expertise and experience, we give our customers a head start in the competition for the latest and most innovative technology.

Sources: welt.de | it-production.com | ip-insider.de | rbb24.de | lr-online.de | produktion.de | tagesschau.de | bmvi.de | bundesregierung.de

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