The race to 5G is on and countries everywhere are working on innovative ways to lead the world into the next era of wireless networking. The first country to successfully deploy and commercialize nationwide 5G wireless networks stands to gain upwards of $500 billion in GDP and up to 3 million jobs. Not only this, but the winner will set technical standards that the rest of the world will be forced to follow — and pay royalties and licensing fees to use.
More importantly, the first to 5G will be at a major advantage when it comes to implementing disruptive technologies that will impact the future of industrial transformation, the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0. In addition to gaining millions of jobs and half a trillion dollars in GDP and licensing revenue, the winning country will also establish itself as a leading innovation hub.
On your mark, get set, litigate
The 5G New Radio (NR) standard requires more cell towers and will change how many devices can connect to a signal cell tower at once. Current 4G LTE networks in the U.S. use approximately 25,000 200-foot towers to provide large areas with cell signal. However, 5G networks require more towers — approximately one small cell tower every 250 meters — and cover much smaller areas. These next-generation networks will be able to connect more devices using more data, such as infrastructure sensors that can “talk” to autonomous cars.
On September 26, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to accelerate deployment of the cell sites necessary for 5G wireless networks in the U.S. by overriding local rules and regulations that could potentially delay development of this critical infrastructure. The FCC’s ruling established a maximum price of $270 that local governments can charge telecom companies for small cell installations on public poles and in city streets.
Local governments have only 60 days to either approve or reject the installation of small 5G cells on existing structures, while new facilities were granted an extended timeline of just 90 days. If cities or states take longer or charge more than the maximum rate of $270, the telecom companies have grounds for litigation.
Shortly after the FCC’s ruling, Verizon launched the first ever commercial 5G Home network in four cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Houston and Indianapolis. To speed up deployment, Verizon’s 5G Home network is built on the 5G TF standard, instead of the industry-agreed-upon 3GPP 5G NR standard, which will take longer to integrate into network equipment. Verizon’s implementation won’t allow devices on its network to connect with devices on the 3GPP 5G NR standard network, but argues the network is only temporary.
Verizon received criticism for this move from other telecom providers, including T-Mobile, which responded by announcing it will build out its own 5G network in 30 cities starting in early 2019. However unlike Verizon, T-Mobile’s 5G network will use the 3GPP 5G NR standard.
Leaving latency limitations in the dust
With speeds up to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE wireless connection, 5G is being hailed as a foundational technology that will accelerate and enable large-scale IIoT applications. This includes use cases such as smart cities or the machine-to-machine (M2M) communication necessary to enable autonomous vehicles.
Currently, many IoT applications are limited by latency — the amount of time it takes for data to be sent from and return to a single connected device — in cellular networks. The connected devices simply produce too much data to be processed in a timely manner, which creates high latency in the network and severely limits effectiveness.
5G can help solve this issue, as it promises massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) and Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC). Together, these enhancements dramatically increase data transmission speeds, streamline connected device management and lead to significant growth in the efficiency of IIoT solutions.
With faster data transmission, 5G will allow companies to deploy more devices without overloading network connections or exacerbating existing latency issues. Accelerated transmission speeds will also allow quick access to data and produce valuable insights to help drive smart business decisions. For instance, the promise of faster networking speeds gives manufacturers the ability to more closely monitor machine health on the factory floor and perform predictive maintenance, instead of spending time and money repairing a machine after it breaks down.
Predictive maintenance can transform the lifecycle of industrial machinery. This principal also rings true for professionals in the construction and trucking industries. With the help of 5G’s ultra-fast networks, trucking fleet managers can gain real-time, over-the-air insights into the health of individual equipment components of trucks in route. This enables remote diagnosis and minimizing the need for lengthy physical inspections. Moreover, faulty parts can be quickly identified before they put employee safety or fleet health at risk.
No matter the use case, network speed is mission-critical for the IIoT. By pairing 5G network speeds with existing and emerging IIoT infrastructure, the U.S. can solidify itself as a global innovation leader.
The use of industrial automation is growing. As robots take on more responsibilities, accelerated data processing is no longer just a luxury, but a necessity. Robots are smarter than ever, but all that intelligence is holding them back. The sheer amount of data robots are gathering can’t be processed fast enough on current networks without running into latency issues.
With 5G, robots will be able to better communicate with their environments, the cloud, other machines and human counterparts. Not only that, but the decreased latency delivered by 5G will enable robots and other equipment to be monitored and controlled remotely. This new level of speed and reliability allows systems to communicate more effectively and take on additional safety critical applications.
As robots gain greater mobility, and in turn greater autonomy, they will be more adept to take on complex tasks that previously required highly skilled craftspeople, such as adjusting the thickness or composition of coatings in real time as they’re being applied to compensate for any deviations in the underlying material. However, manufacturing is only one of the many industries that will be significantly impacted by 5G.
Like how IIoT deployments in the manufacturing space will be transformed by a 5G network, the transportation industry is also in for quite a disruption. The first country to 5G will have the opportunity to pave the way for driverless vehicle technology. By using a 5G network, autonomous vehicles can communicate with one another to avoid traffic jams, alert others to pull over for emergency vehicles or even warn drivers to slow down before an upcoming bottleneck.
A new era of next-generation network connectivity is here. With the promise of more than 3 million jobs, $500 billion in GDP, increased transmission speeds and accelerated automation, 5G networks are reshaping the future of IIoT.
About the author
Alan Mindlin is the technical manager at Morey, focusing on new business development and new customer acquisition. Alan has nearly 40 years of engineering expertise, having worked with Bell Laboratories in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and as a consultant to startups and new businesses. He also has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in marketing and operations from Washington University in St. Louis, as well as a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University.