The state of the private wireless market 2022 for Industry 4.0
Over the last few years private wireless has proven to be the critical enabler to accelerate Industry 4.0. Its reliability, flexibility and mobility enable industries to adopt applications that have increased productivity, efficiency and sustainability.
Nokia has led the private wireless revolution from the beginning, establishing the first private wireless network in 2012 with Rio Tinto, launching the world’s first 5G SA capable private wireless solution in 2020, and working recently with NASA on their plans to put private wireless on the moon. As the pandemic winds down and we assess the private wireless market in 2022, what are the takeaways?
From the beginning, one of the challenges in developing the market has been to prove the relevance of the technology. Our efforts in the last decade have been about demonstrating capabilities and establishing trust. The good news in 2022 is that for most of the enterprise customers being surveyed, the importance of private wireless is now well established as the prime wireless connectivity solution for reliably connecting OT critical use cases assets.
Private wireless is here to stay
At this year’s Mobile World Congress, private wireless was the main topic of the show. Based on research by Omdia – the Private LTE and 5G Network Tracker 1Q22, the top market for private wireless by number of announcements is manufacturing (28%) followed by transport and logistics (15%) and energy and mining (13%). According to Omdia Private LTE and 5G Network Enterprise Survey Insight – 2021 says that 78% of the surveyed enterprises are considering or already using private wireless technology, and 91% of those that are yet to deploy a private network view it as the desired technology for future deployments. When asked, 66% of enterprises expect a full return on their investment within two years.
Zooming in on the manufacturing market, 65% of executives say they are already using 4G/5G commercially or are piloting use cases (ABI). Only 2% of the manufacturing respondents said they have no plans to deploy private wireless.
4G/5G Adoption (Source: ABI Research)
An Industry 4.0 platform enabler
Our view of private wireless has always been that it would enable the digitization of physical industries. It is a necessary connectivity layer to support big data, industrial IoT, edge clouds, digital twins and analytics based on AI and machine learning (ML). These Industry 4.0 technologies will make widespread automation possible, allow for greater agility and resilience, and optimize processes within businesses and throughout their supply chains.
A good relationship with Wi-Fi
A key shift we also see this year is the relationship between private networks and Wi-Fi. Private wireless 4.9G/LTE and 5G are enabling new OT applications that require high bandwidth, low latency like video inspection for example. However, Wi-Fi is not going away and there are a lot of industrial brownfield assets that connect via Wi-Fi. Having the right technology mix for the right applications is vital to transform businesses. Where basic connectivity for non-mission critical OT use cases is enough, Wi-Fi will continue to play a vital role.
While private wireless is gaining significant traction in all OT segments and will overtime dominate, currently Wi-Fi and especially the Wi-Fi 6/6E is also perceived as a viable wireless technology for certain non-business critical manufacturing operations.
This is represented on the right hand side chart from the survey. Wi-Fi doesn’t require spectrum and can connect many assets that do not need mission critical connectivity. Daily IT applications for example that work in a static environment can be very well served by legacy Wi-FI 5 or Wi-FI 6. When it comes to OT use cases, such as important sensors inside machines, powering worker AR solution for critical repairs, remote control of a port cranes, or connection for autonomous mobile robot, private wireless is now seen as the prime solution providing the deep and wide reliable coverage and the predictable performance required to run such applications. Still, between IT and OT critical use cases, there are also less critical OT use cases – such as the plant manager MES access, static part storage solution, deskless worker information systems - that can tolerate variations in datarate and latency, and will not break the OT process if connectivity drops for a few seconds where Wi-Fi 6 and 6E can play a role.
2022 looks as if it is the start of the next phase of private wireless, with adoption beginning to climb the S-curve. We’re seeing general enterprise acceptance of private wireless as a key technology in realizing Industry 4.0 ambitions. The ecosystem around 4.9G/LTE is there and 5G is developing with many new players becoming involved. End user devices are rapidly being developed and additional spectrum is coming available. It will be interesting to see how private wireless unfolds in 2022.