Industrial 5G Will Transform Industrial IoT and the Connected World

By Naresh Kumar Surepelly

ARC Report Abstract


5G, the next-generation cellular technology, is getting a lot of attention these days and justifiably so.  ARC Advisory Group has started to research this new area to be able to provide clients with actionable market intelligence on 5G for industrial applications. This ARC Insight explores the technology behind industrial 5G and potential applications, how the technology can impact and enhance Industrial IoT, and describes the activities of key associations and organizations that are developing technical specifications for 5G systems. It also looks at the associated developments by automation, information, communications and technology vendors in the industrial manufacturing space.    

Do We Need Industrial 5G?

As the influence of IT on OT grows, so does the importance of the Industrial IoT. The potential is huge, and Industrial IoT already enables whole new business models.  But before the full potential of the Industrial IoT can be realized, a modern, open communications infrastructure must replace some of the outdated, proprietary solutions commonly in use in industrial applications.  Industrial 5G appears poised to provide that infrastructure.

A core requirement of Industrial IoT is the ability to connect sensors, devices, equipment, software applications, manufacturing production processes, workers, and end consumers.  Connectivity implies seamless vertical and horizontal integration across all layers of the automation pyramid, providing opportunities to increase operational efficiency from the plant floor to the supply chain by optimizing data, information, and analytics.  The key elements that can boost Industrial IoT are improved connectivity, availability, low (reduced) latency, flexibility, and speed.  Industrial 5G will play a key role in helping industrial users achieve the goals of Industrial IoT.  

5G offers wireless communications services with reduced latency, increased connection density, and improved flexibility compared to the current 4G generation.  5G technology has a theoretical downlink peak speed of 20 Gbps (gigabits per second), which is about 20 times faster than the current generation.

Private 5G Networks

 5G technology allows users to create private networks that offer dedicated services to a group of devices in a defined area such as plants, and factories.  This functionality will have a huge impact on Industrial IoT as it enables manufacturers to isolate and fine-tune their networks for specific application requirements such as high availability, quality-of-service, privacy, security, and safety.  

Private 5G networks offer multiple options for allocating spectrum for Industrial IoT purposes, including:

  • Licensed Spectrum: Mobile operators allocate licensed spectrum to a specific geographic area such as mines or oil and gas fields.
  • Dedicated Spectrum: A region’s spectrum is dedicated for Industrial IoT use.  For example, in 2019, Germany announced corporate licenses of 3.7-3.8 GHz spectrum for private 5G networks and services intended for industrial use.
  • Unlicensed Spectrum: This can be used for applications that do not require enhanced ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC).


Key Associations, Organizations, and 5G Vendors

Several industrial associations, organizations, and technology suppliers are contributing to the emergence of 5G technology for industrial and other applications.

3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)

3GPP is a collaboration of standardization organizations from around the world, working to create globally acceptable specifications for mobile networks. The 3GPP unites seven telecommunications standard development organizations: ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TSDSI, TTA, TTC, known as “Organizational Partners.”  3GPP provides members with a stable environment in which to produce the reports and specifications that define 3GPP technologies.  The specifications and studies are contributed by member companies, in Working Groups, and at the Technical Specification Group (TSG) level.  The three TSGs include Radio Access Networks (RAN), Services & Systems Aspects (SA), and Core Network & Terminals (CT).

The 3GPP organization has been developing specifications and standards for 5G since 2017.  5G standardization is divided into two major phases, starting with Release 15 – The 5G system: Phase 1, which was completed in late 2018.  With Release 15, 3GPP completed specifications for standalone 5G New Radio (NR), which is complemented by 5G next-generation core network (5GC).  It also embraces enhancements to LTE and, implicitly, the Evolved Packet Core (EPC).

Release 16 – The 5G system: Phase 2, is expected to be completed by June 2020.  This release focuses on studying and developing further enhancements to Release 15. 3GPP covers possible applications and use cases of 5G under Release 16.  Some of the key application areas include vehicle-to-everything (V2X), mainly for use in automotive; 5G Industrial IoT and private networks for industrial and manufacturing applications; enhancements to 5G URLLC and streaming services; augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications; security; and network slicing. 

5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA)

5G-ACIA was established to serve as the central forum for addressing, discussing, and evaluating relevant technical, regulatory, and business aspects with respect to 5G for the industrial domain.  The alliance focuses on bringing together operational technology players (industrial automation, engineering, production system manufacturers, and end users); the ICT industry (chip manufacturers, network infrastructure vendors, and mobile network operators); and academia to help develop the overall 5G ecosystem.   

The principal objective of 5G-ACIA is to ensure the best possible applicability of 5G technology and networks for connected industries, particularly discrete manufacturing and the process industries.  5G-ACIA’s mission is to ensure that the interests and needs of the industrial domain are adequately considered in 5G standardization and regulation.  5G-ACIA aims to ensure that ongoing 5G developments are understood by and effectively transferred to the industrial domain.

European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)

ETSI, a body of telecommunications, broadcasting and other electronic communications networks and services supports European regulations and legislation by creating harmonized European standards.  Only those standards developed by CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI are recognized as European standards.  ETSI, one of the partners in the international 3GPP, helps develop 5G mobile communications.  Also, ETSI participates in the oneM2M partnership project to develop standards for machine-to-machine communications and the Internet of Things.  

Siemens and Qualcomm Technologies Set Up 5G Standalone Network

In 2019, Siemens and Qualcomm Technologies implemented the first private 5G standalone network in an industrial environment using the 3.7-3.8 GHz band.  Siemens provided the industrial test conditions and end devices. These included Simatic control systems and IO devices.  Qualcomm Technologies, in turn, supplied the 5G test network, base station, and relevant test equipment.  The 5G network was installed in Siemens’ Automotive Showroom and Test Center in Nuremberg, Germany.  This joint project enables both companies to test 5G network technologies for industrial use and provides opportunities for further enhancements on 5G networks for industrial environment and Industrial IoT use cases.

industrial 5G

ABB and Ericsson Collaborated to Develop 5G and Explore New Business Models

In 2017, ABB and Ericsson established a joint 5G industrial innovation lab at an ABB facility in Sweden.  The lab is designed to enable both companies to develop and explore new 5G-enabled Industrial IoT solutions and business models for the industrial environment.  This lab is equipped with infrastructure, radio access, and network services from Ericsson, a connection to Ericsson’s 5G virtualized core network, edge computing, network slicing, and Ericsson’s IoT accelerator platform.  The lab network will be optimized for better reduced latency relative to current public networks and support new access types for IoT.  Based on a long-time joint technical collaboration, ABB and Ericsson have developed the basic technologies needed to connect machines via a 5G mobile network.  In 2019, the two companies deepened their relationship in this area with a memorandum of understanding to advance their joint vision for the future of flexible production with advanced automation and wireless communication.    

At the World Economic Forum in January 2020, ABB demonstrated how easily and effectively robots can be controlled over wide distances using the real-time, no-latency communication capabilities of 5G.  ABB YuMi, a collaborative robot, carved a message in a sandbox that was replicated in real time by a second YuMi robot located 1.5 km away.  This simultaneous action was enabled through Swisscom’s 5G network equipped with Ericsson technology in real-time and viewed on video screens at both locations.


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Keywords: Industrial 5G, Private Networks, Non-public Networks, Industrial IoT, Connected Devices, Internet of Things, ARC Advisory Group.

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