Home5GThe trouble with private 5G for Industry 4.0 | Part 4 – the features

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

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.

It needs to be easier to go faster, and bigger. “Adoption has been sluggish, particularly in Europe, because of spectrum allocation,” says Leo Gergs at ABI Research. But his explanation of the spectrum situation says more about how 5G is being used by enterprises, currently – and the types of enterprises that are engaging with it. “Spectrum policies in Europe target the industrial space, whereas shared spectrum in the US appeals more to carpeted verticals.”

He goes on: “Those verticals – retail, hospitality, stadiums – all benefit from high bandwidth, which is specified with eMBB in Release 15. Those fancy use cases that require a lot of video monitoring do not hold the same appeal for factories, say, at least in the short term. In the short and medium term, they want to know how to replace cables – to transmit sensor data over this new wireless interface. And for that, they don’t need eMBB.”

He goes on: “More than anything else, the Industry 4.0 market wants predictability and availability. Those are the things that will enable the smooth operation of industrial workflows. Enterprises do not care about 5G, for the sake of it; they do not care whether it is 5G, 4G, or NB-IoT, Wi-Fi. What they care about is that there aren’t any surprises; that they have a reliable and predictable network for their mission-critical and life-critical use cases.”

This may be so, but it does not mean, actually, that 5G is not working for industry yet; it is the difference between common-or-garden 5G for industry and industrial 5G for industry. What is being sold – in some volume – into enterprises now, including into non-carpeted industrial enterprises, is the former: plain-old Release 15-level eMBB-featured 5G NR. Whisper it, but could the killer app for Industry 4.0 just be… connectivity?

Despite his colleague’s acknowledgement earlier, in line with the narrative, that industrial 5G devices are hard to find, Devin Yaung, senior vice president of group enterprise IoT products and services at NTT, thinks industry is pleased with 5G. “Here’s a surprising thing we’re finding out: today’s industrial 5G use cases are simple ones – to connect a tablet to get into an ERP system, or even to Microsoft Teams; just to do push-to-talk,” he says.

“Everyone parades (Boston Dynamics’) Spot-the-dog as a 5G use case; but no one is thinking about Spot, right now. Their connectivity is so bad, they just want a reliable network. And 2G/3G sun-setting has also spooked them out. So the investment logic says to go straight to 5G – because they don’t know how long LTE is going to be around either. And in-pilot, even just with Microsoft Teams, the response is: ‘If only everyone knew how great this is’.

“Because they are now getting coverage inside the building, outside the building, and their people are communicating. ‘This is fantastic,’ they say. And we’re like, ‘Okay, wow, that’s not really that compelling, but…’ The thing is the Wi-Fi in these places is just so spotty. When your industrial apps rely just on hearing someone talk, or on stopping a machine from timing-out for five minutes, then just getting to base connectivity is a big thing.”

Nokia says exactly the same. “We are developing all kinds of use cases, but the first value proposition, which can seem a little basic, is always just connectivity.” Stephane Daeuble, in charge of Nokia’s enterprise product marketing, is in a backroom at MWC in Barcelona, at the end of February; he points to a small radio cell, attached to Spain’s newly liberated 2.3 GHz band, which specifies a time division duplex (TDD) mode of operation – “a little less good than FDD mode for coverage”, he says.

“And we literally could not go far enough to lose the signal. Whereas with Wi-Fi, we couldn’t go past that wall; with LTE, at just 50 milliwatts, we can cover at least half this floor. So coverage is key; it is the ‘killer app’. Because 70 percent of [industrial machines] are not connected. The first thing is to get the real time data from your machine to your workers, and for your workers to be able to communicate. Those are the two big things.

“That is the start point. Once you’ve got the data, then you start implementing analytics for productive maintenance, for instance. Which is already amazing. We have the ROI for a live port-case with a port automation system, and for a mining case with an autonomous mining truck system. And the payback – not even considering that private wireless is cheaper, by the way – was six days for the mine, and 19 days for the port. With a single application.

“And that is all LTE – just by switching from Wi-Fi to 4G. There is plenty that industry can do before it even needs 5G. The new 5G cases Bosch and Siemens will come up with will not happen until they’re completely satisfied. Because wireless HMI with a ‘deadman’ button, say, requires two Ethernet cables for reliability. You need 6x9s for that. Which we are comfortable with, actually. But there is a big disconnect between the telco world and the industrial world.”

The whole Release 16/17/18 shtick comes crashing down, suddenly. Even with Gergs, who says, in fact, the disjunct is not with spectrum and devices, but with the messaging from the telco set; these other items are works-in-progress, and will be harmonised and popularised as the industrial 5G market develops, he says. The simple problem, he suggests, is the 5G pudding has been over-egged by telcos, and even mis-made as an industrial-bake.

“The telco industry has not really understood the needs of enterprises. Because it has put so much emphasis on this latency aspect – which is a problem, as well, because it is simpler to generate sub-one millisecond latencies in a lab than in a factory. But regardless of that, the telco industry did not realise that, while latency is part of the equation, the most important thing is predictability and reliability,” he says.

Latency is decent with Release 15-era eMBB, even if it does not go sub-millisecond as advertised, and even if its bandwidth is wrongly bloated on the downlink (when Industry 4.0 cares more about the upload channel); both these other URLLC features are better specified for industry in future releases – and post-future devices. If only the marketing had reflected this, the argument goes, then the industrial market might be less cheesed-off.

But again, this is not entirely true. There are capabilities in Release 15 of the 5G NR standard that deliver industrial functionalities, says MFA, which could enable industry to do more than easy connectivity and straight mobility for things like PTT and Microsoft Teams, and some well-rehearsed predictive maintenance cases. This is the content of its new blueprints, referenced by Daeuble before (and explored in more detail on pages 26-28).

The point is to connect the ecosystem dots, between the capabilities in the standard, the applications in the enterprise, and the features in the device – and to draw down more of the industrial magic specified in current 5G NR releases. But we are back at the start; we must move on from this discussion about iterative regulatory and technical innovation, to consider how the good ship 5G navigates beyond these stranger tides, into faster waters.

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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