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A business toolkit for service providers - Private Wireless Networks and 5G

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Telenor Denmark prepares for cloud robotics and smart manufacturing opportunity

Industry 4.0 is about to disrupt manufacturing in a major way. Supported by new wireless infrastructure, the 5G evolution towards a smart manufacturing environment offers an unimaginable opportunity for CSPs.

Naturally, operators are clamouring to get on board. But wanting to harness the power of private networks is one thing; actually reimagining and modernizing existing infrastructure is quite another.

Automation is not new in manufacturing. Many industrial processes have already been digitized and automated in recent years through smart devices, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), all of which can assist in automating the production process. But Industry 4.0 takes this further. To respond to fast-changing consumer demands, manufacturers must reduce downtime and improve operational efficiency and speed up production mix changes.

The industrial grade, private wireless network is a key pillar to make this possible. By untethering existing, ethernet-attached devices and robots — and building reliable, resilient, wireless connectivity instead — we can support extreme automation and rapid reconfiguration on dynamic assembly lines.

A business opportunity

According to analysts such as ABI research, the global smart manufacturing market — driven by I4.0 and automation — is 6.3 million manufacturers globally. By 2023, a vast number of the 5.5 billion digital factory connections will be wireless. Most of these connections will be entirely new and supported by new wireless infrastructure, namely, private LTE and 5G.

Existing wireless technologies such Wi-Fi do not make the grade to support this future proof smart manufacturing environment. Manufacturers must move towards 4G, 4.9G and 5G as a connectivity mechanism to underpin the transformation.

So how are manufacturing companies taking these steps towards this digital transformation, untethering devices and building industrial grade private wireless networks?

There are many different ways to go about it. Depending on national spectrum availability and in-house expertise, some manufacturers could undertake the task alone. Others, however, may also need to consider a managed service from a mobile service provider as an alternative to build it yourself.

CSPs can partner with manufacturers to help implement a reliable, secure and performant private wireless network, which will be continually evolved in line with emerging technologies. For CSPs looking to diversify, this is a managed services opportunity.

Telenor in Denmark is a prime example. They already understand private LTE networks and are modernizing their infrastructure to deploy 4.9G and 5G capabilities. This will bring Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications, (URLLC) as well as IoT management at scale, to the Industry 4.0 applications that run in the manufacturing environment.  

For Jess Bech, Telenor Denmark’s director of commercial technology projects, manufacturing is an exciting area that brings together technologies and ecosystem partners. Shorter planning, deployment and return on investment are just a few of the benefits for factory owners who embark on this evolutionary path towards 5G with CSPs as strategic partners. Smart manufacturing is a realistic opportunity for CSPs equipped with the right capabilities such as Private Wireless Networks and 5G.

To understand more about this evolution, Telenor is collaborating with the University of Aalborg and Nokia Bell Labs to test and measure I4.0 key use cases in the evolutionary steps towards smart manufacturing; 

  • Untether the static production line. 
  • Enable the evolution of Mobile Robots and other devices.
  • Bring further efficiencies via edge clouds and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC). 

They are fortunate enough to have at hand a smart manufacturing test environment, equipped with production modules, manufacturing execution systems (MES), mobile robots and a variety of wireless networks from Wi-Fi, through public and private LTE to 5G.

Together, they are accumulating a raft of experience in how to evolve today’s static production lines to smart production environments that will offer increased efficiencies and flexibility as well as economic benefits.

“The choice of network is a starting point and key discussion for factory owners who look to evolve their production environments” Bech tells us. 

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Get the networking right

There are strong arguments for why cellular, and specifically, private LTE/5G, should be the connectivity of choice for businesses as they evolve to a smart manufacturing environment.

The work at the university takes a critical look at how differing wireless technologies adapt to this evolving environment. There are many factors to consider including coverage, latency, reliability, massive device management, security, mobility handling and of course operational costs.

Wi-Fi or cellular?

Wi-Fi signals do not propagate well in many industrial environments where building structures cause interference. It cannot fully support the mobile requirements of automated mobile robots (AMR) or even some of the faster moving arms of robots. Wi-Fi has no support for the low power requirements of sensors and other IoT devices. And, it cannot support the high density of sensors, devices, robots, workers and vehicles that are operating in the typical manufacturing plant.

Specific wireless testing between the MES ( manufacturing execution systems ) and PLC devices – in order to untether the production line - shows that whilst Wi-Fi, in general, boasts lower average latencies than public LTE, interferences have a large impact on this characteristic and will impact performance. And, In contrast to Wi-Fi which is subject to hacking, the 3GPP LTE and 5G standard requires end-to-end encryption with the air-interface secured by strong ciphering algorithms. 

So if cellular is the best choice, should this be public wireless coverage or private wireless coverage? Well, public mobile LTE networks typically achieve three 9s reliability (99.9% uptime), whilst on-site / private wireless LTE and 5G networks can be engineered up to six 9s (99.9999%), which means they are business- and, even, mission-critical. 

“High-performance, resilient and secure connectivity helps realize the productivity increases and cost reductions promised by Industry 4.0 technologies. We are recommending cellular for real industrial grade private networks, and with LTE technology that seamlessly evolves towards 5G, manufacturers can prepare today for tomorrow’s 5G applications with minimal capital investment,” Bech says.

For more on why 4.9G and 5G are today’s choices for building an industrial grade private wireless network, take a look at our white paper.

Evolve together

The 5G era brings a renewed focus on partnerships and eco-systems. The manufacturing sector is no exception. When a CSP partners with a manufacturing company, an understanding of the entire production eco-system is required.

Private wireless networks and their evolution to 5G are the supporting CSP pillars,” Bech says, “But partnerships and ecosystems are required to really make the business flourish.”  

Factory owners are looking for increased process efficiencies and flexibility with secure solutions that protect their critical data and give a quick return on their investment.  

“We recommend a step by step process that leverages industrial grade private wireless networks, automation and cloud robotics to bring flexible production lines with lower start-up costs, lot size one capabilities and a speedy return on investment” comments Bech. “What’s more is that this process can start now with private LTE networks that are seamlessly evolved to 5G as needed.” 

Find out how Telenor is testing the smart manufacturing evolution process

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia or @nokianetworks using #5G

Steve Davidson

About Steve Davidson

Within Nokia's European field marketing team Steve is focused on cable and telco evolution, with 30+ years' experience in the general telecoms industry. When he's not focused on bringing innovation to how operators architect their evolving business, he may be found trying to innovate in the kitchen, or even dusting off his acoustic guitars to architect a tune or two.

Tweet me at @stevedavidson15

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