01 Jun How 5G can help Irish Businesses
With lower latency, faster speeds and greater load capacity, 5G can help Irish businesses improve customer experience and drive growth
Researchers in the high-tech manufacturing sector will soon have access to Ireland’s first 5G Standalone Non-Public Network.
The 5G pilot line demonstration in Mullingar is being launched by Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) and Vodafone Ireland and is expected to be operational this month (June 2021).
This 5G Non-Public Network (NPN) from Vodafone operates on Ericsson’s Industry Connect hardware and software platform and will be used by IMR to investigate and develop smart applications for Ireland’s high-tech manufacturing community.
A 5G Standalone NPN can be configured for a specific industry or application and provide a highly sophisticated URLLC (ultra-reliable low-latency communication) connectivity experience in terms of network reliability and quality of service in hard-to-reach places.
IMR is looking to integrate 5G capability into its Digitisation and Industry 4.0 strategies enabling us to demonstrate to SME owners, CTOs, CIOs and COOs in larger organisations how 5G can offer cost-competitive solutions over traditional approaches across a range of process, AR/VR, robotic and asset management applications.
5G Improvements over 4G
5G is the fifth generation of mobile wireless communications technology – the upgrade to the 4G network. By using higher-frequency bands of the radio spectrum and new signaling methods, 5G promises lower latency, faster speeds, and greater load capacity.
As data and mobility become more critical to business operations, IT teams across the globe are getting ready to embrace the next-gen network. According to one study, 66% of businesses have or are planning to deploy 5G in 2020. As with many new technological developments, there is a lot of hype surrounding 5G – and for good reason. Improvements offered by 5G will give businesses access to lightning-fast data transfer speeds and improved network reliability.
Theoretically, 4G’s maximum speed tops out at 100 megabits per second, but that is under perfect laboratory conditions. In contrast, 5G has the potential to reach a staggering 10 gigabits per second, a jump that will surely be of interest to businesses across all industries and sectors. The amount of data that enterprises transfer every day, hour, even minute is growing rapidly. With the speeds 5G is promising, moving significant amounts of data will not cause any network issue.
Networks are not unlimited and can only handle a predefined number of devices and data transmission simultaneously. But businesses are utilising more and more devices, all of which are transferring more and more data – the 4G network is just not able to handle these increased loads.
Estimates suggest that 5G deployments can support up to one million connected devices per 0.38 square miles, where 4G can support just 2,000. With 5G, enterprise networks can host large numbers of devices in their IT infrastructure, all of which can undertake simultaneous data transfer thanks to the network’s larger spectrum band.”
Latency is the gap of time between when a data packet is sent and when it is received and acknowledged. Latency is a particularly important metric for manufacturing organisations looking to expand their industrial Internet of Things applications, where the lower latency offered by 5G can significantly improve the functionality – and in some cases, safety – of IIoT devices (typically wirelessly connected to a network and intelligent devices that perform one or more functions on receipt of data).
How will IMR use the 5G Network?
Irish Manufacturing Research is to use the network at its facility in Mullingar where we work with industry partners to develop smart Industry 4.0 applications. We intend to develop and demonstrate innovative smart manufacturing use cases, through collaborative research projects, in automated production lines, mobile robots and cobots, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) displays.
These applications typically fall under the banner of Industry 4.0 which is a descriptor for the next industrial revolution, which many experts argue is taking place now, driven by data-intensive, autonomous factory environments with a high degree of artificial intelligence controlling production.
A key infrastructure element to make this environment work is wireless communication between devices to drive process control and decision-making in a highly automated environment. This is where 5G can provide a differentiated level of performance to existing 4G/Wireless networks.
Many companies in Ireland are beginning to explore how exactly a 5G network can improve their business and by working with IMR can easily begin to test some of the assumptions their technical teams will be making about the benefits of this technology.
As our lives and businesses become more data-rich, 5G will provide the infrastructure to supercharge many businesses, but it’s not as simple as switching to a new network provider or contract.
Like all new technologies, 5G hardware will be more expensive than 4G hardware. For businesses to remain competitive when a full-scale launch of the technology occurs, they will need 5G-ready equipment on hand and ready to go.
5G will facilitate advances in artificial intelligence, automation and IoT, and with these advances come more and more data. How a company collects, stores and uses that data will be critical to success, so investment in analytics tools will be essential, to ensure that more data leads to better decision-making.
Making the most of 5G
Teams cannot make the most of this new technology if they do not understand what it is and the potential it offers. 5G education can help businesses understand how the network’s benefits can support business goals, improve customer experience and drive growth.
Faster speeds and lower latency lend themselves to an influx in new automation and AI technologies. Businesses will rely on mobile networks more than ever and will need to work with IT specialists to redesign and streamline core operations. Technology is always evolving and improving. Today’s 5G technologies will be limited compared to those of the future.
Companies must strategise how they are going to use 5G now, and in the longer term. For manufacturing clients, IMR is investing in 5G now to be able to provide that expertise and independent guidance to help them navigate successfully through a transition to a 5G environment.
Whether it is tomorrow or next year, at some point in the future, most Irish companies will have an opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of 5G.
By Mike Hibbett, IIoT senior technologist and 5G strategist