Private 5G networks fuelling rise of Industry 4.0
As regulators allocate more bandwidth spectrum, enterprises are building and benefiting from their own private 5G networks. It's proving a gamechanger for businesses that need 5G capability to implement transformative smart factory apps, Internet of Things and digital transformation.
There's a lot of hype around the benefits of 5G hyperfast connectivity. From vast bandwidth and high data rates to low latency and enhanced security, the 5G rollout promises much. Designed to be highly reliable and scalable to incorporate untold numbers of IoT sensors, 5G is still in its infancy - at least in terms of its global rollout.
But private 5G networks, those that don't share traffic with other networks in the vicinity, are already a fact of life. It's not a new concept: private networks have been around since the emergence of 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Wi-Fi technology. But 4G can't hope to support the speeds, reliability and coverage required by smart manufacturing.
Verizon already has a toehold in the UK market, introducing an international platform with Nokia in 2020. A Vodafone report published in July put private 5G networks at the heart of levelling up the less prosperous parts of Britain by boosting manufacturing operations.
The report, titled 'Powering Up Manufacturing, Leveling Up Britain' calls for the government to introduce incentives to invest in private 5G networks and extend its Industrial 5G Testbeds and Trials Program for another five years. The report also concludes that 5G could boost UK manufacturing by £6.3bn by 2030.
Implementing private 5G networks isn't without its challenges, but these could be addressed by implementing 5G test and innovation centres as recommended in the Vodafone report. It's clear that 5G is the obvious choice for businesses that require reliability and ultra-low latency (1ms) from a network designed to support thousands of devices. By creating a LAN that supports 5G technology, businesses can benefit from speeds 100 times faster than the current 4G LTE network.
And private 5G offers other compelling benefits for business, particularly those involved in Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing. Private 5G networks are essential for self-driving machines and automatic guided vehicles, AR predictive maintenance, collaborative mobile robots, digital twins and other functionality.
In a 5G factory, robots and swarm intelligence are expected to have a transformative role. For example, a robot swarm of independent and self-sustaining systems can rapidly coalesce on a single solution. Highly manoeuvrable, these boids can perform tasks impossible for humans with impeccable just-in-time efficiency.
Another benefit is the ability to implement AI, machine learning and deep learning applications fast without disrupting the supply chain and production line. It's another reason why high-speed wireless and cable-free private 5G networks have rapidly found a home in smart factories.
Watch and learn
Private 5G networks are currently on-test in the UK with companies ranging from Centrica to Ford. They're hoping to unlock the cost-efficiency and enhanced productivity promised by 5G. In fact, more than 70% of mobile network operators believe industry will be critical in driving the adoption of 5G.
For other businesses, this is a watch and learn moment. As the 5G network matures, technology develops and deployments costs drop, private 5G will become increasingly attractive to businesses of all sizes. According to Anne Sheehan, Business Director at Vodafone, the UK is at the beginning of its 5G journey and businesses need to embrace the power of 5G innovation.