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How 5G will transform connectivity among industries

5G technology is believed to be the backbone of the Internet of Things wherein everything, from home to cars to industries, is connected. Nokia has been clinching partnerships for its 5G services with the goal of enabling communications companies in their own 5G network deployment as well as developing new use cases.

Predictions from International Data Corp. (IDC), an industry analyst firm, say that there will be 41.6 billion devices connected in 2025. These devices are seen to generate 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data. A fully connected ecosystem needs a fast and reliable connection and infrastructure.

“5G is a complete restructuring of the whole architecture of the network (from 2G to 4G), which is also essential for economic growth,” said Kai Sahala, head of 5G Sales, Asia Pacific and Japan, Nokia.

While 5G is being marketed for its speed, with Nokia claiming that it can bring around 100 times more connections, it’s other advantages over the previous network connections include latency, reliability, and security.

“It is basically the building block for the fourth industrial revolution,” Sahala said. “5G will enable the transformation of physical industries by enabling (the utilization of) augmented intelligence, robotics, and virtual reality. And by that, it also transforms the way we live our lives. So there’s a major change coming up in the next few years.”

Latency is just as important as speed. The response time is expected to be not just IRL (in real-time) but almost instantaneous. The “things” that need to be connected in the very near future would need real IRL response, for example, in terms of transportation or robotics.

Network Slicing

Sahala expounded on the role of network slicing in utilizing 5G technology.

“A logical network that provides specific network capabilities and network characteristics that don’t interfere with each other,” he said. “They have slices, so you get a slice of the network, which is virtually your own network that you can control. This is one critical component of 5G networks.”

“We feel that Nokia has a complete portfolio to build 5G end-to-end,” said Andrew Cope, head of Southeast Asia, Nokia.

At present, 5G has two networks: non-standalone and standalone. The former’s 5G cells are anchored on the current 4G radio and core network. The standalone, on the other hand, is not dependent on the underlying network, which is the basis for Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Networks (URLLC).

“Nokia already has 17 networks alive for commercial use,” Sahala said. “Millions of users are already in those networks.”

Standalone

The standalone network is what enables Nokia to provide 5G end-to-end. This architecture enables slicing and enables very low latency.

Initially, the 5G network is marketed for consumer use such as mobile broadband, fixed wireless access (FWA), and gaming, among others. As research and development on 5G went by in the past years, new use cases emerged with transforming industries in mind. Use cases for agriculture, mining, manufacturing, seaports, smart cities, and utilities are being explored.

Among the mentioned use cases, Nokia is piloting 5G use cases in industrial automation, seaports, and smart cities. Most of its test runs were held in advanced European cities wherein the infrastructure has already been established.

Industrial automation is wherein transformation through 5G would be very much visible. Machines will now be able the repetitive tasks in manufacturing plants. Sahala noted that sooner or later, machines would no longer be planted in one location but would be required to move from one area to another doing those tasks. That is where speed and latency, as well as reliability of 5G, would be very much needed. The same goes for autonomous cars

“There’s more and more drive towards the machines,” he said. “You actually move them quite often so the production is defined and redefined over and over again.”

Interest

“Because 5g is so imminent, a lot of interests are in the industries and doing these proof of concepts shows how close we are in 5G,” Cope said.

Nokia also reiterated its commitment to providing secure networks relying on its own infrastructure and experience and lessons from developed nations that are already using 5G in various use cases.

“When we talk about social trust security is non-negotiable for Nokia,” Cope said. “It’s part of the future of 5G and networks have to be as secure as we can make them.”

In the Philippines, Cope said Nokia continues to look for local companies from different industries for 5G deployment.

“The plan is to find an industry partner that understands and sees the potential of 5G in the industry space to build a use case,” he said. “And it’s not just a use case but a business case for 5G in that industry.”