5G is fast, the latencies are ultra-short. But that’s just the technical side. The real revolution are self-sufficient campus networks that companies can operate on their own. They allow completely new applications and business models.
In the early days of mobile communications, one thing was clear: the network operators’ business model consisted of selling call minutes and text messages at the highest possible prices. Then the mobile Internet came along and the network operators also made money from the data volume. Over the years, many other mobile and digital business models have been added, in which the network only forms the (invisible) technical basis. Now the new mobile communications technology 5G is just around the corner and it opens up completely new business models.
This is not only due to the technical possibilities, such as the higher data rate of up to 10 gigabits per second and the short latency down to one millisecond in future releases. Rather, the decisive driver is a regulatory gimmick by the legislature. This allows so-called campus networks to be set up for the first time . Companies, universities and trade fair organizers can cut out a slice of the frequency cake locally and set up a self-sufficient 5G network on their premises. The data is processed in the edge, i.e. in computers on the premises. Such a network is highly available and extremely fast, which allows completely new applications.
Ideal for Industry 4.0
Especially for Industry 4.0. This is based on the idea of the digitized factory with networked cyber-physical systems and the goal of manufacturing individualized products down to batch size 1 instead of millions of exactly identical products. Before 5G, there was no satisfactory solution for the flexible networking required for this. Cables do not allow the systems to be mobile, WLAN struggles with dead spots and dropouts when transitioning from one cell to another, and earlier cell phone standards were too slow or had too high a latency, which prevented real-time applications.
There are already first examples of how this can be used. The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT in Aachen, for example, operates a milling machine in which it manufactures prototype components for MTU Aero Engines engines. A vibration sensor communicates with the machine via 5G so that vibrations can be compensated for at lightning speed and damage to the components can be avoided.
Nets in slices
Such self-sufficient networks are suitable for large industrial companies or trade fair operators. Those who shy away from the costs and effort can get their campus network one size smaller. For this purpose, the mobile network operators offer network slicing. For this purpose, the campus network is set up in the public network, albeit isolated with guaranteed bandwidth, even if many people in the vicinity are surfing with their smartphones at the same time. This variant is interesting for smaller companies, but the disadvantage is the higher latency, since the data runs through the data centers of the network operators and is not processed in the edge of campus. Such scenarios are also interesting for companies that want to network their locations worldwide, including with suppliers.
Small campus networks are then combined into a large virtual 5G network, the machine in a factory in China is then apparently located directly in the factory in Germany. In upcoming releases of the 5G standard, mechanisms are planned with which machines can even automatically reserve more bandwidth if they have to send larger amounts of data. Incidentally, network slicing also works in private campus networks. One business model could be for companies to set up private campus networks in lucrative locations and rent them out in slices to nearby customers via network slicing.
Drones, emergency workers, football
It is not without reason that the first applications for campus networks came from the manufacturing sector, above all from the automotive industry. However, the campus networks there are still based on 4G or combined 4G/5G technology. Many other industries are just emerging and there are plenty of interesting ideas. Airbus controls its unmanned airship ALtAIR from a distance of up to 250 kilometers, and drones can be controlled via 5G to inspect pipelines, for example. Autonomously driving cars will communicate with a parking garage via 5G and park autonomously.
5G will quickly find its way into healthcare. For example, a doctor could remotely give emergency responders instructions in the event of an accident. In the future, data will be transported in clinics instead of patients. The ultrasound is then recorded with a small handheld sensor at the bedside, and the results are stored in the cloud in the hospital information system.
Entirely new ideas are emerging in the computer games industry and in sports – or in a combination of both. VFL Wolfsburg has equipped the Volkswagen Arena with 5G to offer the audience a new live experience. Viewers can point their smartphone at a player and see real-time information about this player as augmented reality, such as their duel values. Live events and e-gaming are merging into a new form of sport. Viewers can expect other similar applications at the Tokyo Olympics (if they take place). Network operator NTT Docomo has already announced a firework of ideas with augmented and virtual reality, which are not yet public.
The corona pandemic has led to a surge in digitization and, for example, accelerated the trend towards the cloud. The cloud is essential for remote work, but fast data connections are also necessary. 5G will take mobile working to a new level, but also working in the company office. Where a lot of data is exchanged with the cloud, small 5G campus networks – for example in a building or maybe just on one floor – can replace the rigid networking with LAN cables and provide more flexibility.