Three use cases only workable with URLLC-flavoured 5G
Further to last week’s sub-polemic on the wrongheaded marketing of 5G services, it is worth considering, again, just how transformational the next generation of mobile technology could be – and why the hype is building so feverishly in the first place.
Of course, the only way for industry is to flog its new wares, as hard and as fast as it can. A new generation of mobile tech brings a life-giving economic refresh and stimulus – for network vendors to network operators, and network operators to network users. And any first-mover advantage is invariably short-lived, until the technology is commonly available.
If anything, we think the hype is about right for once. New 5G technology will combine in a perfect storm with the rapid multiplication of ‘things’, enabled already by low-power networks and embedded computing, and new edge computing and artificial intelligence capabilities.
The complaint is the marketing of 5G as a unique, even revolutionary, technological step-change is premature, and not that it is unjustified. What is presented as 5G today does not justify the name – not really in terms of the new specification, and no way in terms of new performance. The industry’s ambition outruns its means.
5G will only gain transformational power, and make good on its revolutionary promise, as a standalone radio system, hinged on a brand new core network, carrying ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) services. This is plain, and made plainer by current marketing of 5G services.
Industry analyst firm Mobile Experts released a state-of-the-market report this week with a promotional preamble for journalists about the same. “The hype surrounding 5G IoT devices isn’t really justified in the near term,” said Joe Madden, founder and president, and principal analyst at the firm.
Premium low-latency, high reliability applications will become more significant after 2023, he said. “The big story is LTE-M and NB-IoT will expand to more than one billion units per year over time, creating a new large, sustainable market for modules and chipsets.” In the meantime, before URLLC can bring change, the IoT market is essentially in incubation mode.
Below, we consider a trio of transformational 5G applications – as quoted from a recent white paper on URLLC services and applications by 5G Americas – that will only come when the technology’s incubation phase is complete.
1 | INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION
“URLLC is one of the enabling technologies in the fourth industrial revolution. In this new industrial vision, industry control is automated by deploying networks in factories. Typical industrial automation use cases requiring URLLC include factory, process and power system automation.
“Use cases involve communication transfers enabling time-critical factory automation that are required in many industries across a wide spectrum that includes metals, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, electrical assembly, food and beverage. To enable these applications, an end-to-end latency lower than 0.5ms and an exceedingly high reliability with BLER of 10-9 is required.”
2 | INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION
“URLLC can empower several technological transformations in the transportation industry, including automated driving, road safety and traffic efficiency services. These transformations will get cars fully connected such that they can react to increasingly complex road situations by cooperating with others rather than relying on their local information. These trends will require information to be disseminated among vehicles reliably within extremely short time duration.
“In fully automated driving with no human intervention, vehicles can benefit by the information received from roadside infrastructure or other vehicles. The typical use cases of this application are automated overtake, cooperative collision avoidance and high-density platooning, which require stricter end-to-end latencies and high reliabilities….
“Several applications and use cases are already under research and development, the most representative being automated driving…, road safety and traffic efficiency services…, digitisation and transport logistics…, [and] intelligent navigation systems.”
3 | REMOTE HEALTHCARE
“There is a need for remote patient monitoring and communications with devices measuring vital signs such as ECG, pulse, blood glucose, blood pressure and temperature. The remote treatment and response based on monitored data can be life critical for a patient, requiring immediate, automatic or semi-automatic response.
“The URLLC features are used for… remote surgical consultations and remote surgery. Remote surgery is about applications in a mobile scenario in ambulances, disaster situations and remote areas requiring providing precise control and feedback communication mechanisms for surgeons in terms of low latency, high reliability and tight security.
“In a remote surgery scenario, the entire treatment procedure of patients is executed by a surgeon at a remote site, where hands are replaced by robotic arms. In these two cases, the communication networks should be able to support the timely and reliable delivery of audio and video streaming.”