‘Fleets of AGVs driving mile after mile’ – Siemens teases new private 5G system
In a stage-managed webinar about industrial 5G, Siemens took the opportunity yesterday to talk up its emerging private 5G portfolio yesterday, including in-house radio and core networking elements. Private 5G, using privately licensed spectrum, is a key to unlock Industry 4.0, the firm said; its own cut-down 5G network system for industrial settings will be an essential part of its offer to customers going forwards.
The story, which broke in Enterprise IoT Insights in March – trailed by the firm’s jostling for ‘vertical’ spectrum in Germany, and as well as a footnote in a press statement about Deutsche Messe’s plan to install 5G across the Hannover fairgrounds – appears to put the industrial giant on a collision course with an expanding roster of providers in the private networking space.
These include traditional network vendors and operators, as well as a new breed of open RAN kit providers and core network specialists. The sense is Siemens may yet be white-labelling network solutions from some of these others, as it is doing for other componentry in its industrial IoT stable. But the firm maintained, yesterday, that its prototype solution, in testing at various sites, including its at automotive showroom and test centre in Nuremberg, is all its own work.
Sander Rotmensen, director industrial wireless communication for the firm’s digital industries business, commented: “Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, edge computing – all [of these] very valuable on their own. But when you combine them you have a true asset. This is where industrial 5G comes into play – as one of the most promising communications technologies, which will bring wireless connectivity in industry to the next level.”
He went on: “The [Nuremberg] test centre allows us to set up and test our full 5G ecosystem, from infrastructure to user equipment and end devices, all developed by Siemens. The infrastructure of our 5G network is a prototype consisting of a 5G core and 5G RAN. The installation uses private [3.7-3.8 GHz frequency] spectrum that is available for local private networks in Germany. This private spectrum is the key to getting the most out of 5G for industry.
“It is the most efficient way to set up private 5G networks. The network is then owned by the end user and can be managed the most suitable way. The highest possible data privacy can be assured, and the network can be designed to support even mission critical applications. In our test centre, we test all of this. A fleet of AGVs equipped with our industrial 5G routers is driving mile after mile to ensure our 5G solution will fulfil the tough requirements of our industrial customers.”
The company’s new industrial 5G router, the Scalance MUM856-1, announced at the end of 2020, showcased at Hannover Messe in March, and trailed in these pages as well, was also promoted, including for use today with public 5G networks for “remote services for remote machines”. Siemens made clear public 5G has its uses for industry, even if it advocated private 5G in private spectrum as the best way for industry to get up close and personal with its machinery over a wireless connection.
Rotmensen said: “Public 5G networks are already being rolled out around the globe. We can also benefit from them in industry. We can use them for applications that require remote connectivity like remote services for remote machines. Here a big advantage of 5G comes into play: high data rates. 5G is 10-20 times faster than 4G, so we can transmit bigger amounts of data in the same amount of time – to perform firmware updates on remote machines and stream videos from remote locations.
“[The new] router [works with] public 5G networks and benefits from their high bandwidth. We have kept those industrial use cases in mind during the development of the device. With IP65 protection, it is suited for brownfield applications, because it can be mounted outside the cabinet [and go] from minus-30 to plus-70 degrees celsius. And you can already use it today, even when 5G is not available yet in your region, because it is compatible with 3G and 4G networks [as well as] private 5G networks.”
The firm restated the standard line for 5G about the real industrial “magic” coming with Releases 16 and 17 of the standard, bringing aspects of massive machine-type (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low-latency (URLLC) communications into the picture. The former functionality will support up to a million devices in a square kilometre, noted Rotmensen. “Which sounds like a lot for a single plant, but when you bring it down to square metre, you’re talking about just one connected device,” he said.
URLLC, meanwhile, will get industrial wireless connectivity down to sub-10ms latency, and up to five-nines (99.999 percent) reliability, he added. “With that performance, many applications on the shop floor will be connected wirelessly in the future.” But there is still a wait on devices, because of the wait for the next standards releases. “Unfortunately, it will still take time before those promises of 5G are available in the real industrial world. The next standards of the 5G release need to be ratified [and] chipsets that support those releases need to be developed, and then we need to create reliable industrial products based on those chips.”