5G wireless for industrial use: Six answers

Industrial communications is adding 5G to wireless protocols used. Get answers about 5G progress, 5G benefits, 5G adoption challenges and 5G standard.

By Daniel Quant August 11, 2020


Learning Objectives

  • Industry will use 5G wireless technologies.
  • 5G wireless services are ramping up, and applications offer industry benefits.
  • 5G wireless also pose some challenges as standards develop and emerge.

Industrial applications will benefit from 5G wireless technologies. See answers about 5G wireless service rollouts, benefits, applications and challenges from Daniel Quant, vice president, strategic development, MultiTech Systems Inc.

1. What’s the current status of 5G service rollouts?

Quant: More than 50 operators in over 30 countries have now launched one or more 3GPP 5G commercial service about 8 to 10% of 4G-LTE network operators. Initially focused on consumers and commercial enterprises requiring faster and lower latency wireless connectivity either when mobile to smartphones or fixed to commercial and residential buildings (3GPP 5G-NR [New Radio] Release 15 – Enhanced Mobile broadband). [3GPP is the 3rd Generation Partnership Project.] More than 10 million handsets have shipped globally, with a few million more customer premise equipment (CPE) devices connecting outside or inside of buildings to 5G fixed wireless access services. South Korea, USA and China lead the pack with new service deployments announced weekly. Although data throughput performance being seen in the field has not met with expectations, it is expected that as operators’ deployments mature, average speeds and latency will improve significantly.

2. What are 5G’s main benefits?

Quant: Enhanced broadband data speeds, estimated at well over 1 Gbps, lower latencies – for most at less than 10 ms and targeted at sub 1 ms with ultra-reliable connectivity for industrial mission critical assets (3GPP release 16, released in June 2020). Far higher density of low power lower bit rate machine connections, many running on batteries for years, often referred to as massive machine connectivity (3GPP release 17 expected by 2022)

3. What are likely to be the leading 5G applications?

Quant: Initial applications that benefit from 5G-NR are media-focused, including faster and more reliable streaming content, live TV, file sharing, social media and wireless online gaming, which is being positioned for broad market take-up. Autonomous driving, remote patient surgery and a myriad of other applications discussed at every 5G event. My opinion is that industrial transformation, which is well behind the digital transformation enjoyed by most every smartphone consumer, is the real game changer for 5G. Connecting machines and workers for greater process efficiency and improved data driven decision making. Much of this will be privately deployed by industrial enterprises, such as oil and gas, utilities, real estate owners, transportation and other industries for improved network performance targeted at sub-millisecond ultra-reliable connectivity for mission critical assets and services vs. large scale deployments of low-power-constrained devices, such as sensors and actuators.

4. What adoption challenges will 5G present?

Quant: Establishing more agile business models and network architecture that enable enterprises to capitalize a converged wireless private 5G network with edge intelligence for improved security, greater performance, faster decision making, reduced bandwidth, cloud compute and storage costs. How to virtualize more of the core network on premise (onprem) and network slicing of infrastructure to optimally connect a diverse variety of assets. Thousands of sensors require low bit rate long battery life often in difficult to reach places sharing 5G-NR resources with enhanced broadband and sub-millisecond latency time-series networks for mission-critical control automation. Hybrid networks combining public and private networks to gain best cost and performance vs. global mobile coverage is another challenge. Who manages these private networks: A traditional service provider or an enterprise information technology (IT) team?

5. What new developments might potential 5G adopters expect to see this year?

Quant: Improved data speed and reduced latency targeting consumers as early 5G-NR networks gain maturity and techniques such as dynamic spectrum sharing and deployments of mid-band and milli-wave spectrum are being rolled out, improving access to additional spectrum bandwidth and increasing data performance.

Release 16 adds unlicensed spectrum (NR-U) targeted at enterprise deployments, such as factories, mines, ports and other facilities. IEEE 802.1 Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) standards support Industry 4.0 factories of the future where timing between distributed control systems needs to be as quick as wired connectivity. 3GPP’s Cellular vehicle to everything (C-V2X) Sidelink aims to lower risk for autonomous driving, where cars and roadside devices like traffic lights are communicating using multicast for safer more energy efficient transportation. Advantages include improved positioning of 3 m to 10 m for asset visibility, global tracking and more agility in how to deploy 5G networks, such as Integrated Access Backhaul (IAB) where fiber backhaul may not be everywhere.

6. Is there anything else to add about the 5G standard?

Quant: 3GPP 5G new radio is very much a standards-driven process in action and will be for many years. Almost like a TV show, each year brings a new series referred to as a “release” (release 15, or 16 and so on). Each series consists of new episodes referred to as a “work item” addressing key features, such as NR-U, ultra-reliable low latency communications (uRLLC), enhanced machine type communication (eMTC, a 3GPP LTE-M low-power wide-area network in release 13) and 5G-NR Lite (among proposed improvements for release 17). Industrial enterprises have the most to gain from the benefits that 5G brings, and they are joining the ranks of 3GPP as stake holders driving their data transformation needs into upcoming releases and work items.

Daniel Quant is vice president, strategic development, MultiTech Systems Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.


KEYWORDS: Industrial wireless, 5G for industry


Are you developing or using 5G industrial wireless applications?


Daniel Quant is vice president of strategic development at Multi-Tech Systems Inc., where he oversees product and go-to-market planning for a portfolio of IoT/M2M wireless communication platforms leveraging cellular, analog, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa and GNSS technologies. Quant has more than 25 years of wireless and telecom experience, including 20 leading global product teams. He joined MultiTech from Telit Wireless Solutions, where he managed the industry’s broadest range of embedded communications devices as vice president of global product management.

MultiTech provides information about shutdown of 2G and 3G wireless networks.

Author Bio: Daniel Quant is vice president, strategic development, MultiTech Systems Inc.