2019 was a pivotal year for 5G as mobile network operators (MNO)/communication service providers (CSPs), network infrastructure vendors, software vendors, cloud providers, system integrators, operational technology (OT) vendors and industrial enterprises began to stake their claim in the technology. Some industrial companies that deployed private LTE and/or non-standalone (NSA) 5G networks for test cases or trail purposes started to realize the benefits of private networks and have made roadmaps for 5G deployments.
5G is the first wireless technology likely to have a large impact on the industrial world. While Wi-Fi and 4G are already used in some industrial applications, their value-add is limited by the fact that they were never designed specifically to meet industrial requirements and, as a result, have been adapted for specific purposes along the way. 5G, on the other hand, is designed to meet industrial requirements with ultra-low latency, high network availability, and high device density capabilities. Looking at the big picture, 5G is a key enabler for initiatives, such as Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0, as it supports connectivity of a large number of devices and allows large quantities of data to be aggregated and delivered from shop floors to remote data centers and cloud-based systems.
Traditionally, mobile network operators are the major customers for network infrastructure vendors, while consumers that use mobile devices are the primary customers for network operators. Private networks offer mobile network operators and network vendors great business opportunities to expand their revenue streams in the industrial sector. Driven by the convergence of operational technology (OT), information technology (IT), and networks, enterprises in industrial domains are looking for a higher level of network performance to automate and digitize their operations.
Network operators are increasingly seeking ways to grow revenue and cut costs in a low-growth environment, which is made more complicated by the demanding requirements of 5G communication service capabilities (high speed, low latency, and high device density). Network operators and vendors therefore need to evolve their networks offerings with new network technology solutions and services, such as virtual radio access network (RAN), multi-access edge computing (MEC), cloud-native solutions, and IoT services, through network slicing, software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), and new open architectures and interfaces to meet the demands of the 5G era.
ARC believes that with high speed data rates, low latency, and high device density and reliability services, 5G promises better experiences and will likely be widely adopted in numerous industrial applications. 5G is expected to create great commercial value for carrier companies as these companies enter into new business models and services that support Industrial IoT applications.
Industrial applications, including asset or equipment tracking in mining applications, mobile robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) employed on manufacturing shop floors, applications that enable mobile and remote workforces, end-point metering in gas, electricity, and water industries, would be the early adaptors of 5G.