Point of View

Stop seeing 5G as a future technology in the industrial sector

June 18, 2021

5G is proliferating across industries. It’s enabling new customer experiences, business models, and the adoption of the most cutting-edge technologies throughout processes. Our recent assessment of leading service providers in the telecom, media, and technology (TMT) industry shows how the TMT industry is becoming a springboard for 5G solutions, which technology and business service providers are tailoring to other industries. Industrial sectors have been among the early adopters of 5G, in combination with the internet of things (IoT), and edge computing. This point of view explores the impact of 5G on the industrial sector, leading use cases, and how industrial firms are today modernizing and optimizing their processes underpinned by connectivity, data, and improved decision making

5G is changing the industrial sector landscape

5G presents an array of opportunities for industrial companies that operate with connected equipment, processes, and systems. 5G can achieve the low latency (approximately 100 times faster than 4G) needed to address evolving requirements in the industry, such as driverless cars and connected IoT products. Manufacturers will be increasingly able to work with AI, advanced robotics, digital twins, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and massive IoT deployments with dramatically reduced lag.

Manufacturers have invested in assets that are decades old. These assets have no in-built provisioning of connectivity and monitoring. In such a brownfield scenario, there is always a limitation on adding wiring and sensors. High-speed wireless connectivity allows 5G to improve the availability of real-time data, enabling faster decision making.

The industrial sector has been the source of 5G use cases for some time. For example, Ericsson has been experimenting with AR overlays in its factory in Tallinn, Estonia, so technicians can repair electronic boards without referring to blueprints or Word documents. Ericsson (with China Mobile) is also enabling (physical) automation by applying cellular IoT technology.

A 5G private network is the preferred path for several manufacturing firms to speed up implementation

5G allows spectrum slicing and sharing, helping telecom providers optimize spectrum distribution to their clients for maximum revenue generation. Enterprises want to ensure uninterrupted 5G connectivity. BMW, Robert Bosch, Volkswagen, BASF, and Deutsche Lufthansa are reportedly among the companies that have applied to set up local 5G networks in Germany. Private 5G networks will strengthen cybersecurity as enterprises can then configure their networks to fit their needs, adopt custom security features like encryption, and avoid sharing bandwidth with other firms. Following are some prominent examples:

  • Volkswagen constructed its own 5G mobile networks in 122 factories in Germany in 2020.
  • Nokia is working toward delivering a standalone private 5G network at a smart factory in Finland.
  • The German government is granting licenses to factories for particular spectrum ranges.
  • BMW bought spectrum for a private 5G network at one of its sites in Bavaria. M3connect GmbH, a German telecommunications software company, will set up the network and is testing different suppliers’ equipment.
  • Lufthansa’s maintenance subsidiary, Lufthansa Technik AG, in February announced that it is setting up a private 5G network operated by Vodafone, using Nokia Oyj equipment, for remote engine inspection and remote 3-D cabin design.


Service providers are rapidly developing their 5G capabilities to cater to requirements across industries

Given the traction of 5G across industries, it has become imperative for service providers to focus on developing their 5G capabilities. Following are examples of traction among service providers:

  • Tech Mahindra launched a 5G-enabled solution to build a wireless and secure “factory of the future” in 2019.
  • Altran (now part of Capgemini) is working with London edge-cloud startup Ori Industries to promote federated multi-access edge computing (MEC) so developers can deploy Industry 4.0 solutions on private LTE and 5G networks.
  • IBM, Samsung Electronics (Samsung), and M1 opened the IBM Industry 4.0 Studio this year. It will combine advanced 5G connectivity with artificial intelligence (AI), hybrid cloud, and edge computing capabilities to develop and test innovative Industry 4.0 solutions for enterprises in Singapore and across the region.
  • TCS signed a contract in 2021 with Three UK, a British telecom and internet service provider, to configure its network and support 5G services.
  • Cyient is building Open-Radio Access Network (Open-RAN) software and Ultra-Dense Networks (UDNs) in 2021 to help operators transit to 5G and garner customers faster.
  • Capgemini 5G Labs are bringing customers and partners together to develop 5G use cases and solutions for multiple industries in 2021.

Check out our TMT Top 10 report for more examples.

The Bottom Line: Enterprises should evaluate the benefits of 5G for mainstream adoption as industry-specific solutions emerge.

Service providers are developing 5G use cases and solutions for industries and their specific functions (add to that the more horizontal applications that align with general enterprise functions or technologies) individually and through a co-creation model. We have discussed several examples of 5G enabling new business models, customer experiences, improved operations, and technology adoption. The time is ripe for enterprises to evaluate 5G and move quickly toward mainstream adoption. In addition, enterprises must start planning their use of 5G in the long run as industry-specific solutions are available today and achieving real business value.

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