Home5GThe trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 2 – the devices

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

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. 

ARC Advisory Group maintains Release 16 end-devices will only be available at the end of the year – much “later in 2022”, then, to adjust the Keysight quote. This is the “very earliest” they will appear, it adds. But Release 16 networks are available now. NTT makes clear there are no proper industrial attachments for its networks, forcing vendors and integrators into cut-and-shut workshops to magic-up industrial devices – like characters from Saturday afternoon television in the 1980s (see main image).

“We have the network, but not the devices. You need natively-supported devices for those URLLC capabilities, and you can’t find them anywhere. So we end up with these MacGyver-style customer 5G sensors. But how much can we do that? I mean, how scalable is that – to produce these one-off devices? It is a problem. Because to be honest with you, without devices, this ain’t moving,” says Shahid Ahmed, in charge of new ventures and innovation at NTT.

“These URLLC/TSN attributes are probably a year or two away, but lots of our clients, which have moved out of pilot into production, want those capabilities now. And while latency is not a key driver, yet – it is actually coverage and bandwidth, for now – it will be very soon because they are pivoting to use cases two and three, which require lower latency and higher control. And we are all wondering, where on earth are the devices? Who is building the devices?”

All of which begs the question, why does telecoms talk about 5G as if it is powering Industry 4.0 already? Nokia, famously, has 400-500 large enterprises using its private cellular gear, and is pitching squarely to ‘critical industry’. Cellular appears, fairly clearly, to have a place in industry, backed up by the flurry of press notes from everywhere about new 5G deployments. But at the same time, the industrial 5G story is sinking under its own hype.

Leo Gergs from ABI Research rejoins: “It’s a good question; I’m still figuring it out. I mean, it is not always clear what use cases are attached to these deployments. Most are probably voice driven, rather than IoT driven. Certainly with the Nokia numbers, the majority are LTE deployments. 5G is making little progress – only 10-15 percent are on 5G. Just because there are few industrial cases that can be only addressed with Release 15, which cannot already be addressed with LTE.”

To be clear, Ahmed at NTT is only joining-in the conversation on devices; it is quite busy enough, it seems, with 15-grade system designs. And Nokia knows all of this very well, too, of course, and has (it says) eased off the crank arm of the 5G hype machine. Stephane Daeuble, responsible for enterprise solutions marketing at the Finnish firm, suggests ‘industrial 5G’ only effectively exists currently as industrial 4G/LTE.

He responds to a question about competition in the market, with IT outfits like Cisco and HPE joining the fray on one side, with defensive talk about 5G as a complement to Wi-Fi, and OT specialists like Siemens joining on the other, with passive-aggressive talk about 5G as a 2023/24 story. “5G has put cellular in the picture, but enterprises don’t care that it is 5G; the talk quickly turns to use cases. We don’t want to hype the market any more than it is already. ”

He tells a story about recent work with an unnamed cake maker, or something like. “The customer was keen to trial private 5G. So we gave them private 5G, and they ran a whole trial, and then, when it came time to deploy, they deployed 4G,” Daeuble explains. “Because they called the icing manufacturer and the croissant maker, and whoever else, and they all said, ‘No, I don’t have 5G machines – but I do have 4G machines.”

He goes on: “When it comes to running a real factory, or real port, or real mine, it is always about the ecosystem. It is the same as six months ago. We continue to help the ecosystem test and develop the technology. At the same time, unless we are given the chipsets – even for our own networks, by the way, which are Release 16 in terms of capability on the radio and everything – then we can’t validate. That is the reality.”

And when are those chipsets coming? “You have to ask the chipset makers,” he responds. “We are using Release 15 capable chipsets. We can upgrade them to Release 16, but they are still consumer chips. Release 16 is two years old now. And we still haven’t seen a really committed roadmap for a Release 16 industrial-featured chipset. At the moment, I think it is scheduled for early 2023. But that is 16; it is not 17.

“Release 17 is when you start to have, maybe, 70 percent of what you need, and 18/19 is when you finish it off. The industrial players want to test it all to be certain it works and does what is written in the standard – before they start to put it into their products. And also just because the lifecycle of industrial machines in the field is 20, 30, 50 years, and they want to be sure they are going to last – and the chips they put in them won’t need to be upgraded later.”

For ‘chipset makers’, read Qualcomm (and read right, in report, for its response) and Mediatek, too; for ‘industrial players’, read Siemens (discussed already), plus the likes of Bosch and Schneider Electric (interviewed on pages 30-32).

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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