Home5GThe trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 1 – the standard

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 1 – the standard

This is article is taken from a recent editorial report on Industrial 5G Innovation – From Setting Standard to Becoming Standard; the previous instalment in this serialised version of the report is available here. Subsequent instalments are listed below (linking either to the original report, or to web articles, as they are available). The report includes additional features and interviews, and is available here. A webinar on the same topic is also available, here, with speakers from ABI Research, MFA, Schneider Electric, and Vodafone. 

What is the promise and what is the reality – and what is the difference between? The disjunct, the telecoms community protests, has nothing to do with the 5G NR standard; the 3GPP release schedule is right on track, responds Neil Payne, marketing manager for 5G network emulation solutions at test and measurement company Keysight Technologies – taken-aback, apparently, by the suggestion of any procrastination with industrial 5G.

“There have been no significant delays and 3GPP standards are progressing to plan,” he says, reading off the 3GPP calendar: releases 15 and 16 were finalised in 2018 and 2020, respectively, with 15-level networks/devices available since 2019, and their 16-level equivalents coming into circulation from now. Release 17 is scheduled for completion in mid-2022, to be locked-and-loaded into networks and devices by the end of 2023. 

The US firm has just announced “enhancements” for its ‘network emulation solution’, to verify the performance of Release 16 chipsets, and to get Industry 4.0 moving. But there is a delay, or an absence; everyone says so. Aircraft services company Lufthansa Technik, arguably the definitive industrial case study for 5G, with at least two (working) private networks in its hangars in Hamburg, has talked pointedly in these pages about the lack of industrial 5G gear. 

This is not up for dispute, we reckon; it does not need quoting, again, and we do not need to double and triple-check in this report (although we will). The industrial 5G market, as it exists, is populated with Release 15 devices, mostly smartphones and tablets, only made ‘industrial’ by some ruggedised garb. As it stands, industrial 5G is just a promise, written in the 3GPP documentation and tested in hardware in Keysight-style test labs. 

Which is not to say its new ‘network emulation solution’ is not important; it looks downright essential to spur industrial device makers. But the question goes again; has the delay with 5G devices impacted the industrial 5G market? And the response comes again. “As above, there have been no significant delays… and the market is progressing, as per expectations. The industrial-5G IoT market is attracting a lot of attention, enabled by new features in Release 16.” 

He mentions ‘enhanced’ URLLC (further acronymized to eURLLC), as well as time-sensitive networking (TSN), and developments with ‘non-public networks’ (NPN; 3GPP-speak for private networks). Keysight is developing “pioneering test solutions for this”, says Payne. The line of enquiry takes a different turn. Has the industrial market been required to ‘make do’ so far with consumer-grade Release 15 devices? The line of response does not. 

“Definitely not,” says Payne. “Some of [industrial] features… were only introduced in Release 16. It may be true that the modem makers’ first priority was to implement the Release 16 enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) features used by consumer devices and smartphones, but development and testing of eURLLC/TSN/NPN features is now progressing rapidly and devices supporting them will be available later in 2022.” 

So, perhaps, in the end, the response does tally; that Industry 4.0 will not be served, and therefore industrial 5G will not be crowned, until Release 16-level devices, due later in 2022/23, are in circulation, to attach to Release 16 radio features in (mostly) privately-licensed airwaves. Payne restates that the lag (delay?), between the freeze on the specification and the release of networks and devices, is 18 months, typically. “So Release 16 is running to plan.” 

But, back to Gergs (Leo Gergs at ABI Research; see here for previous commentary); is it the case, then, that Release 15 just isn’t good enough for industry? Is that the source of the disquiet among industrial users? “Yes,” he responds. “There is a realisation that it won’t cut it, at least for industrial [5G] operations – in manufacturing, logistics, port operations.” He suggests, as well, that “very influential voices like Siemens” are saying the same – “that there is nothing you can do with it; that industry needs 16, 17, 18”. 

This much is true. The German industrial giant – an Industry 4.0 bellwether, set to take the wraps off its own private 5G system at Hannover Messe shortly (at writing) – was lurking in the halls at Mobile World Congress (MWC) a couple of months back, checking out the telco narrative on industrial 5G, and declaring it prematurely told. “It is not a 2022 story, and not even a 2022 one; it will only go to scale after 2024, at the earliest,” said someone over a coffee. 

Siemens has said the same in these pages before, worth quoting again for context. “The 5G networks out there right now are focused on consumers with cell phones using as much data as possible. That is what 5G is today, really. But all these other promises are buried inside future releases – in Release 17 and 18, and I would include a part of Release 16 in that, as well. These start to serve industrial requirements.” 

This is Sander Rotmensen, director industrial wireless communication for the firm’s digital industries business, speaking a year ago. At writing (in May), he is keeping his powder dry, readying to front his firm’s 5G charm offensive in Hannover in a couple of weeks. But Siemens’ longer-term scheduling is good, he said back then. “ I don’t really see 5G in a private network taking off on the shop floor prior to Release 16 end-devices coming available.” 

(Enterprise IoT Insights has just published an interview with Sander and Siemens, available here, in which he confirms that industrial 5G is a Release 17/18 game, with even Release 16 only effectively a first taster-release.) 

This is article is taken from a recent editorial report on Industrial 5G Innovation – From Setting Standard to Becoming Standard; the previous instalment in this serialised version of the report is available here. Subsequent instalments are listed below (linking either to the original report, or to web articles, as they are available). The report includes additional features and interviews, and is available here. A webinar on the same topic is also available, here, with speakers from ABI Research, MFA, Schneider Electric, and Vodafone. 

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 1 – the standard

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 2 – the devices

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 3 – the spectrum

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 4 – the features

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 5 – the system

The trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 6 – the channel

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