5G Public: This is the latest cellular network protocol with advanced antenna technology. It is capable of transmission speeds of 20 Gbps with latency of 1 millisecond or less. These characteristics will lead to an explosion of real-time applications. Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and streaming services will get a major boost. GSMA reports that there will be 1.2 billion 5G connections by 2025.i
5G Private: This is expected to be the ground-breaking variant of 5G. Enterprises will use private 5G networks—if dedicated spectrum is affordable—for mission-critical applications that demand low latency and guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS). Telcos may even offer a dedicated slice of their networks that meets the requirements of enterprises. The good news is that Private 5G is becoming available in many parts of the world, including the U.S., Europe, China, and Japan. However, we have yet to see how public and private 5G networks will evolve, compete, and collaborate.
Wi-Fi 6: This is the latest version of Wi-Fi and is faster than 802.11ac. Wi-Fi 6 provides improved performance in device-filled homes and offices. As an example, if a location is using a Wi-Fi router with a single device, speeds increase by 40% with Wi-Fi 6 when compared to Wi-Fi 5. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 communicates to multiple devices at the same time, instead of broadcasting to one device and then the next. It also uses a new technology called “target wake time” that reduces the drain on batteries in devices. This is particularly important because battery life is a major determinant of cost as well as performance for mobile devices.
LiFi: This is a type of WiFi that’s about 100 times faster. LiFi uses LED bulbs to pulse light – like Morse code, except that the human eye cannot detect it – in order to transmits data. Transmission speeds can exceed more 100 Gbps. LiFi works within a range of about 10 meters and cannot pass through walls (automatically making it secure). LiFi could become a key source of connectivity in aviation, healthcare, education, retail, and homes.
Leo Satellite: Low Earth Orbit or LEO satellites provide global wireless coverage, across the most difficult types of terrain (mountains and oceans) that other networks cannot cover. Most communication satellites are in LEO, allowing real-time communication.
Selecting the most suitable wireless network for Industry 4.0 initiatives will depend on the demands of instance, latency, reliability, security, and throughput that are derived by the applications.
Cloud office networks will be among the early beneficiaries of 5G. This network will be able to handle the increased amount of nodes that are connected with 10 times less latency and 100 times faster speeds, delivering exceptional user experience and business efficiency. Users will be able to switch between their Wi-Fi networks and 5G seamlessly using OpenRoaming (which is currently in beta). This functionality will open the door to wider networks, encompassing Wi-Fi, cellular, and possibly LiFi at some point.
5G is set to accelerate Multi Edge Computing (MEC) by providing new functionalities that enable edge computing. Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) deployed over 5G will propel applications like autonomous vehicles and the IoT, while new edge platforms like EdgeX Foundry for IoT and Intel Openness will use 5G to create new services and use cases. For the next few months, as organizations ponder over their approach to 5G and its role in realizing their Industry 4.0 ambitions, they will do better by familiarizing themselves with:
MEC Applications: Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) shifts computing from a centralized cloud to the edge of the network, moving it closer to the customer. The edge network analyzes, processes, and stores the data instead of sending all of it to the cloud.
O-RAN: This is a vendor-neutral disaggregation of Radio Access Network (RAN) at the hardware and software levels on general purpose processor-based platforms. It implements an open interface between components (such as RU/CU/DU) using hardware and software-defined functions. This will help drive innovation across an interoperable multi-vendor landscape.
IoT and Gateways: The IoT gateway is a key element in an IoT ecosystem. It is the bridge for communications, connecting Zigbee sensors with the Internet, Bluetooth devices with native cloud applications, and more. It also reduces latency—a key requirement for IoT—and improves capacity at the edge by pre-processing raw information.
Edge Platforms: Edge platforms can be used to run applications and bring processing closer to the customer/end user. Examples of Edge platforms include Edgex Foundry and Intel OpenNESS.
5G LAN: 5G LAN (Local Area Network) is among the most promising technologies on the horizon. It can be used to build an on-campus cloud office network without the need for the enterprise to build a network (thus saving on network construction and maintenance costs).
OpenRoaming: OpenRoaming is a new method to automatically and securely connect mobile devices to trusted Wi-Fi networks. It doesn’t require the use of passwords or personal details. Users can effortlessly switch between 5G networks and Wi-Fi (the Wi-Fi location needs to be a participant in the 5G provider’s network).
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): SASE (pronounced “sassy”) is an emerging cybersecurity concept that allows organizations to apply secure access, regardless of where their users, applications, or devices are located. Fundamentally, it makes security management on 5G simple and stress free.
The implications of these technologies are self-evident. Combined with 5G, they will play a major role in boosting the potential of Industry 4.0 investments. By injecting higher levels of speed, convenience, performance, security, and efficiency, they will create differentiators for business. Ultimately, the race to lay the groundwork for 5G integration will truly accelerate once organizations realize the impact it can have on customers, partners, and employees.