Home5GDevices, interoperability are key to private 5G adoption by manufacturers

Devices, interoperability are key to private 5G adoption by manufacturers

5G manufacturing ecosystems are still lacking some key aspects , ABI analyst says

The availability of 5G-capable devices for manufacturing environments and the ability of private 5G networks to support legacy manufacturing protocols are two of the factors that will help determine the speed at which manufacturers adopt 5G, according to Leo Gergs, senior analyst at ABI Research.

Gergs, who spoke at the 5G Manufacturing Forum virtual event, said that overall, 5G technologies are expected to hit a critical inflection point between 2026-2028 and eventually, private 5G networks for manufacturing are expected to account for nearly a quarter of private network revenues.

The value proposition, he explained, is that 5G, in conjunction with deterministic networking and time-sensitive networking (TSN), will provide the means to boost performance of OT, IT and communications for increased productivity. However, manufacturers have some reservations about the maturity of 5G at this point in its development and deployment. Gergs said that last year, ABI Research conducted a study in partnership with Nokia, in which consumer, industrial and automotive manufacturers were surveyed. That study found that there were two primary types of issues restraining 5G private network manufacturing adoption, Gergs explained: Ecosystem immaturity and technology immaturity.

Most respondents said that a lack of 4G/5G devices, lack of finalized standards and availability of spectrum were keeping them from adopting 5G networks. While standards have advanced since then, particularly with Release 16, Gergs noted that that has yet to trickle down to implementation: For example, no Release-16-capable devices for industrial 5G use are yet available, Gergs said. Devices are therefore a limiting factor on 5G manufacturing adoption — one which could be changed depending on action from chipset makers and device and network OEMs, he added. In addition, ABI expects that there will be significant fragmentation of technologies, as manufacturers move from primarily cabled connectivity toward more use of wireless for flexibility and ease of maintenance. If 5G is to be adopted on the factory floor, it needs to support legacy systems and protocols used by manufacturers, Gergs said.

“In order for 4G and ultimately 5G to be successful for manufacturers and be interesting for manufacturers, any private 5G solution or private 5G platform needs to ensure perfect interoperability with all the legacy technologies, be it Wi-Fi, be it Bluetooth to some extent, or some Ethernet-based connectivity solutions that will still prevail on the factory floor,” Gergs said. He said that he sees early steps being taken in industry collaboration that will support this kind of interoperability in 5G systems.

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