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Is the industry ready for 5G?

by Andrea Jacobsen | Sep 09, 2019



Industrial communication is a key element of Industry 4.0. While companies are striving to make their production process smart, they must consider which communication technology has the qualities to achieve that. 5G, the mobile network of 5th generation, promises to overcome the shortcomings of the other wireless systems. But is the industry ready for the change?

Marcela Alzin, Project Manager at HMS Labs, HMS Networks’ department for future technologies, surveyed 50 international manufacturing professionals in spring 2019 to inquire about the positioning of wireless communication in their companies and to see how they are getting ready for the launch of 5G.


So, Marcela, can you tell us a bit about the survey you have conducted on 5G in the industry?

The idea came to my mind last year. I followed the emerging discussions about the suitability of 5G for factories and wondered if people in the industry were really aware about 5G’s prospective role in their business. Everybody was talking about Industry 4.0 but I felt that something was missing in the ongoing debate – the enabling role of 5G.

So I decided to see for myself - meet the industry professionals in person and survey them. Hannover fair in April was a great place to start! I had great conversations with OT and IT people representing different companies. They shared with me valuable internal information concerning use of wireless technologies in their companies today and their plans for the future. They also revealed their personal opinions about 5G’s role in manufacturing.


What are some of your key findings?

There are several interesting findings from market point of view! For example, I was surprised that three quarters of the respondents were more or less aware that 5G can be used as communication technology on factory floor and most of them were positive about that. I have not expected this level of awareness and openness towards the new technology.

At the same time, I found it interesting that both OT and IT people found reliability and robustness of wireless solutions considerably more important than low latency or any other KPIs.

Additionally, many expressed a strong wish to operate their factory networks on their own as non-public 5G networks. Especially OT people were very clear that they prefer to have overall control of the network instead of having a third party managing the network for them. But it is also true that for almost one third of the people this question was too “far-flung” and they were not able to respond.


What do you see as a possible challenge for adopting 5G smoothly as a new standard?

Well, we are still in the standardization phase and there are lots of technical problems which need to be solved. Starting at interoperability and smooth co-existence with other systems ending with complex regulatory issues. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area.


"For the success of 5G, it is very important that IT and OT work more closely together on all levels."



Lastly – why is 5G necessary for the future of smart manufacturing?

5G is able to close the gap between the low-flexibility wired solutions and low-reliability wireless solutions. While wired communication is still seen as most reliable and near real-time by many manufacturers, it does not meet the requirements of flexibility in production. Regardless of cost and space wires occupy in a factory, their main disadvantage is that they do not enable flexible adaptability of manufacturing cells and free movement of assets on factory floor.

Industry 4.0 is all about flexible production of personalized products in mass scale. In order to achieve this, the entire manufacturing process must change and become more agile. Reduction of wiring is part of this transformation process. However, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other currently available wireless communication systems do not meet the reliability and real-time requirements which are present in wired systems. 5G combines the qualities of a cellular technologies with low-latency and 99,999 % (“five 9s“) reliability.


To learn more about 5G for industrial communication, download HMS' complimentary whitepaper "5G: Is the industry ready?" and register for our upcoming webinar. 


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