Horizon 1: 5G on the Industrial Campus
The first 5G-based campus networks will emerge in an industrial context. We estimate that about 1,200 industrial locations in Germany are suitable for campus networks. Additionally, there are approximately 500 logistics hubs and, in the future, circa 300 major hospitals. This market is not only addressed by mobile network operators.
Added to this are the network equipment suppliers Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson with their private LTE solutions. Moreover, system manufacturers and integrators, such as Bosch and Siemens, and networking specialists, such as Blackned, are also attempting to enter this market. The extent to which the solutions of non-mobile operators can also use licensed spectrum for this in the future is currently being discussed prior to licensure. According to the latest statements, the German regulator (BNetzA) will enable the setup of independent, local radio networks on request in a frequency range reserved for this purpose.
Compared to wired field buses and Ethernet-based industrial communication systems, a 5G-based campus network offers the following key advantages:
- The capability of integrating objects and information beyond the production site as well as from suppliers and service providers
- A potentially uniform connectivity standard for end-to-end controlling entire production lines and cross-linking all service providers (which bypass local gateways)
- Shorter set-up times and greater flexibility when converting modular production systems
- The integration of “moving objects” such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), mobile control units, and mobile robots.
In comparison with available radio standards (Wi-Fi, DECT ULE, Bluetooth, 6LoWPAN, and the soon-to-be WirelessHART), a 5G network features the following crucial advantages:
- Highest reliability and security features using licensed spectrum with quality of service management
- Low latency, especially in combination with a mobile edge cloud (on- or off-premise)
- Interoperability with the public network (e.g., for breakouts for cross-location communication)
- Compliance with the highest security requirements by handling safety-critical traffic in a separated network slice.
However, the value of 5G campus networks in the industry 4.0 context is truly revealed in the give-and-take with the following application families:
- Integrated production control tools for end-to-end production monitoring and controlling
- Predictive maintenance tools for machines
- As a service accounting tools for service providers and machine manufacturers, i.e., the procurement of machine performance instead of machines in production
- Control system software for automated intra-logistics and warehouses
- Autonomous AGVs (automated guided vehicles) and Mobile Robots
- AR maintenance tools, i.e., the support of employees in production and maintenance using augmented reality.
In all these fields, start-ups, machine and plant manufacturers, logistics companies, and industrial service providers are already on the market with initial solutions, but given the sector’s importance and high efficiency potential of the application systems addressed, sizeable growth potential still remains to be found here.