The transition from 4G to 5G allows for revolutionized connectivity and improved mobile networking that will create an entirely new wave of opportunities. While 5G allows consumers to get more data out of their mobile phone or obtain faster downloads, for enterprise use cases, it brings far more than just speed. More significantly, it brings increased value across industries, including autonomy.
Jacon Kenagy, Cyngn’s developer of new business and a Qualcomm veteran, walks us through how companies will benefit from private 5G networks.
4G vs. 5G Industrial Use Cases:
The fifth-generation wireless network has allowed private cellular to become accessible across industrial use cases. Unlike 5G, the 4G network isn’t realistically available for these deployments or other enterprise services, more broadly.
Previously, traditional mobile network operators (MNOs), which include companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, have been a part of a consumer-focused ecosystem. This cellular ecosystem has been a mobile-network operator focused, particularly towards consumer applications for previous G’s. As we know, these MNOs have historically been in constant competition with each other for growth and share of the public consumer cellular market. MNO’s consumer focus has shifted in relation to greater accessibility of 5G, as they now have increased abilities to bring this capability to enterprises through the concept of private networks.
It’s all about access. First, we can see that today, there is an overall greater desire for 5G networks, both from businesses and providers. For example, several years ago, many businesses did not fully understand the capabilities of cellular wireless, such as its ability to provide enhanced performance and consistency that allows for the connectivity of a vast number of devices at once.
Conversely, if a company actively tried to access it for their business, the network providers could not affordably provide it. However, now, MNOs readily have these services available. Today, these “services” are referred to as private networks. For the first time ever, it is feasible for an industrial enterprise to attain their own private 5G network.
The Benefits of 5G Private Networks:
A cellular private network is a network with services dedicated to a private entity’s own usage. School campuses or military bases are examples of entities that would require a network like this. More broadly, industrial warehouses with large autonomous vehicle or Iot deployments would also benefit from 5G. These large, busy, and complex environments would allow for greater connectivity through a dedicated business network. Other examples of domains that could benefit from such autonomous deployments are factories, ports, and mines.
Kenagy specifically identifies three main advantages that 5G brings to industrial domains: reliability, availability, and performance.
First, 5G allows businesses to gain access to internet reliability and availability that is equivalent to Ethernet wire standards. Ethernet was founded in 1973 and is a group of wired computer networking technologies that forms a local network. However, 5G is able to do this, but with the added benefit of not having any wires. Operations within an enterprise need very high and consistent reliability. Therefore, while WiFi has made great improvements over the years in home and office environments, it was never designed with the intent that cellular was designed for.
For instance, if you own a factory and want to connect your production systems to the internet, you would not use WiFi, because potential problems with connectivity would cost you a significant amount. Instead, you would use Ethernet, because WiFi, while reliable for connecting an Amazon Echo device for example, still has numerous “foundational design elements that make it too risky for broad adoption in industrial use cases”, says Kenagy.
Even the White House, emergency services, and other enterprises that involve public safety use cellular technology due to its reliability. But now, a 5G private network brings enterprises the same level of reliability and availability as wired Ethernet by providing and meeting mission-critical quality-of-service standards.
Along with providing reliability and availability similar to that of Ethernet, 5G additionally provides greater mobility and scalability. Ethernet can’t manage an unlimited number of wires because it will run out of space. By being wireless, 5G is not bound by any physical limit. This allows for new levels of performance in the capacity for devices on the network.
For example, a modern factory that aims to double automation month-over-month through expanded use of robots and autonomous vehicle deployments needs to be able to add hundreds of devices per month and manage thousands, overall. 5G is the only network that has the capacity to handle this through increased mobility. It will allow for thousands of devices to connect onto a 5G private network. Essentially, 5G is going to be replacing WiFi more so than 4G, yet they can all coexist with various functions for different environments.
5G further provides lower latency and higher bandwidth than 4G, which greatly benefits industrial enterprises and contributes to better performances. 5G can achieve latencies as low as 1 millisecond, which is more than 10 times faster than 4G services, along with giving us beyond a gigabit per second of data transfer. These improvements to performance are crucial for high speed factory production systems that employ multiple production devices and HD video for safety and quality, for instance. It changes where essential computations happen and allows significant loads of data to arrive at a given device.
Where are we with the Development of 5G?
5G was introduced in 2019, but we are still at the early stages of private 5G for enterprise. Kenagy says, “there are hundreds of companies within the wireless industry that are now realigning or expanding themselves to supply private network products and services to enterprise markets.”
Specifically, MNOs are developing new B2B business units for private networks. For instance, in June of this year, Verizon came out with “On Site 5G”, their private 5G network for enterprises and public sectors in the U.S. These networks are managed directly by Verizon and bring 5G Ultra Wideband capabilities to facilities regardless of whether the given environment is within a public 5G coverage area.
However new types of alternative service providers are also emerging to provide these services, one of which is disruptive to the traditional MNOs. By contrast, the second type of provider instead attempts to bridge value between private networks for enterprises, while also interoperating with MNO networks. According to a recent article, examples of non-traditional MNOs that are targeting private networks are fixed and cable operators, TowerCo’s (infrastructure-focused companies), IT services firms, major cloud providers, specialist IoT providers, among others. One particularly successful provider is Aarna Networks, a software company that creates, manages, and automates a platform for private 5G networks for B2B use cases.
Kenagy further foresees that there will be many “showcases” on public networks that will “inspire creativity and innovation within industrial communities.” An example of a future showcase may be of a fleet of autonomous vehicles that are reacting and moving with each other in real-time. As these AV fleets get developed, so will implementations inside factories where dozens to thousands of robots, devices, and humans are “working in a collaborative orchestra of real-time precision.”
The rise of service provider companies offering private networks, in addition to new system integrators, allows enterprises to more easily gain access to 5G private networks. These providers are continuing to develop ways to create the network design for an enterprise, procure the equipment, configure and install the networks, and provide ongoing support and management. In addition, the availability of turnkey SaaS systems from which enterprises will be able to run and create their network design on their own, will expand the accessibility of private networks.
Autonomy and the 5G Future
In upcoming years, 5G will result in an upsurge of connected devices being used in industrial enterprises. It will provide tangible connectivity of real-world industrial devices that provide reliability and security through an enterprise admin-controlled gateway. This, in turn, impacts autonomy by opening the door for autonomous machines to connect.
We have already seen this on a smaller scale. For instance, we can see how Amazon Echos have helped automate tasks in the home environment, or Twilio has automated online business transactions. Yet as 5G continues to become more readily available to enterprises, we will see new and more significant automation platforms and systems being developed.
This will drive the progression of autonomy, as 5G connected vehicles will be able to constantly have the most efficient, real-time maps and localization awareness. First, this will enable immediate and extremely accurate, on-the-spot changes to an AV’s functionality and tasks. Second, AV’s will then be able to learn and adapt to their surrounding environments and systems with no downtime, resulting in increased efficiency. Third, 5G enables AV deployments in scenarios where computation happens off-vehicle, without an internet connection. This, therefore, decreases power consumption. However, specified levels of in-vehicle redundancy will be needed for safety-critical systems.
Currently, Cyngn’s autonomous vehicle technology works at the edge, which is to say vehicles can run autonomously with all safety-critical computations occurring on the vehicle, regardless of whether they have a wireless connection. Nonetheless, 5G will bring additional opportunities to autonomous vehicle deployments. For example, it will allow companies to stream larger amounts of data more efficiently from practically anywhere that has a 5G connection. Today with 4G and WiFi, we have to take special measures to record data in the event that a vehicle loses its connection to the internet. With 5G, connectivity is stable enough that autonomous vehicles can depend on this reliability and reduce the redundancy required for data recording and processing.
There’s no doubt that 5G represents the next generation of connectivity. This goes beyond increased speed and latency, but instead opens the door for massive improvements in autonomy. 5G and private networks will allow autonomous devices and the entire connected systems in which they operate to become increasingly capable of autonomous operations.
The impact of this connectivity isn’t that different from the universal human need for connection. All humans aim to maintain and increase their connectivity to other humans. Connecting with others expands network, possibilities, and outcomes. This is the same for autonomous devices. Similarly, deployments of 5G will allow autonomous vehicles to connect and enable systems to find ways to become more productive. Through this comes a future where autonomy is more efficient through system-wide streamlining, in addition to having greater opportunity for experimentation, invention, and the realization of new benefits.