Making connections: how private 5G networks will unleash Industry 4.0
5G can be delivered as a private networking solution, corralled to create a superfast closed network dedicated entirely to one business. This opens the way for a technological leap forward with the potential to ignite a post-pandemic economic recovery.
There is no hyperbole in saying that, as the fastest cellular network technology ever developed, 5G has the potential to transform entire industries and rewrite the rules of competitive economic advantage.
Where 4G transformed communication by connecting more people, 5G moves wireless to another level, thanks to its ability to connect more things. That is why it is being hailed as a general-purpose technology step change – a catalyst for Industrial Revolution 4.0.
The arrival of 5G connectivity is predicted to increase annual UK business revenues by up to £15.7bn by 2025, according to a report by Barclays. By 2035, predicts IHS Markit’s 2019 report ‘The 5G Economy’, the technology will have contributed US$3.6tr (£3.1tr) to the global economy. For businesses attempting to recover from the impact of the pandemic, it is likely to prove hugely disruptive while also signposting a route to future profitability.
“5G provides the foundational infrastructure to build upon and to do things that are just emerging now and haven’t even been thought of yet,” says John Crawford, Verizon Business General Manager, International Enterprise Innovation and 5G Solutions.
With private 5G networks there’s the ability to deploy your own network without having to wait for an operator to stand up a public network. It also delivers, out of the box, the ability for an established business to take advantage of new ROI models and routes to market without worrying about ownership of their data across the network.
Industrial-grade private 5G offers bespoke scalability and flexibility alongside its headline benefits of low-latency, performance, security and high-speed business-quality connectivity. This opens up unparalleled opportunities with multiple applications. Many businesses – including the major airline and automotive OEMs – are already exploring the possibilities of 5G, and take up is likely to accelerate.
Among the early adopters are industries that operate in remote areas or in dense logistical hubs such as mines, seaports and freight depots where standard or cabled connectivity is difficult to deploy or where public networks simply don’t provide useful coverage.
Temporary private 5G networks are also ideal for large construction projects and broadcasters. They could be set to support a major music festival with access for hundreds of thousands of fans while reserving capacity for event operations, such as television broadcasting, PA systems and emergency services lines.
But 5G’s greatest potential is unleashed when it is allied to Mobile Edge Computing (MEC). This is designed to allow the business to experience improved low-latency performances in their applications, enabling near real-time working and interaction. It also can save on the costs, and time, associated with transmitting, processing and storing this data, as it can be actioned upon in near real-time at the edge of the network without the delays and costs incurred by legacy networks. As companies demand more and more data from a growing population of sensors, cameras and business-processes, the potential benefits from 5G and MEC get even more appealing.
“5G and MEC go hand in glove,” says Crawford. “Together they give you the ability to do things that were just unimaginable until recently.”
Verizon launched the world’s first commercial 5G wireless network in the US in April 2019. It has since developed partnerships with other stakeholders including Amazon Web Services, with which it launched 5G Edge using the Cloud to reduce the time it takes to transmit data and increase storage functionality.
Verizon has also opened a number of 5G Labs, designed to offer start-ups, academics and companies the opportunity to explore the boundaries of the technology. Hundreds have already been through the Labs.
Healthcare and medicine are likely to be transformed by 5G. One of the first start-ups to emerge from Verizon’s 5G Labs is Medivis. Its SurgicalAR technology is now being used to train surgeons. It’s a completely revolutionary way of being able to project detailed scans and imaging directly onto a patient in real-time.
This year, Verizon and Medivis have teamed up with Microsoft to create the first 5G-enabled hospital for the Veteran Affairs Palo Alto Healthcare System in California.
“Medivis is just one of many start-ups that are going to materialise because of 5G,” says Crawford, “We gave them the environment, 5G tools and advice and they built the solution. It’s like something from ‘Star Trek’, a 3D projection that allows you to see what’s going on inside the patient.
And that’s only one application. 5G enables the prospects of remote surgery with experts on one side of the world using robotics to operate on a patient in the other.
In the business world, we’re seeing game-changing new business-models and go-to-market initiatives enabled by 5G being explored and deployed right now. “We’re seeing airlines no longer having to fly their planes into specific locations to have engineers work on them, but through the application of 5G, they are able to provide remote services to connected locations where they can perform the same maintenance, servicing and diagnostics that previously required the aircraft on-site. The cost savings and efficiencies deliver business advantages against their competitors using legacy systems. The opportunities become boundless when you apply your imagination.”
Industry stands at a tipping point, and it’s a critical moment too, because 5G can play a significant role in a post-pandemic economic recovery. It is now up to businesses to seize the moment and take control with their own private 5G network.