Does 5G now replace the previous generation of mobile communications?
The Federal Network Agency's auction for 5G frequencies in the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz ranges ended on June 12th, 2019. At the end of November 2019, the Federal Network Agency provided clarity on the application procedure for local wireless 5G applications. Are these the best prerequisites for catapulting the digitalization of industry and logistics to the next level with the data turbo?
In theory, yes, because 5G technology offers a multiplication of data rates and short latency times compared to 4G/LTE. Real-time sensitive processes such as autonomous driving or smart industrial automation should be able to break new grounds with 5G. How far has standardization progressed? What advantages are becoming feasible for industry and logistics? What is the added value of a private 5G license for companies?
Flashback: 5G Projects in 2019
Together with its partner companies Vodafone and Ericsson, e.GO Mobile, the e-car manufacturer, started a 5G network in Factory 1 at the site in Aachen. Siemens and Qualcomm reportedly implemented the first private 5G network in a real industrial environment in late November 2019. Deutsche Telekom is working with Osram to test a campus network in which machines are wirelessly networked in a real production environment. This test does not (yet) use 5G, but a combination of a publicly available LTE wireless network and a private LTE network implemented separately on the Osram factory premises.
When will 5G be launched in Germany?
"Germany should become the world leader in digital infrastructure and the lead market for 5G. The new 5G generation of mobile communications should promote the development of innovative services and applications (Industry 4.0, automated driving, Internet of Things). To this end, frequencies will be made available at an early stage and in line with demand so that Germany can advance in this tech nological leap forward". This is how the Federal Network Agency, which is responsible for frequency auctions and licensing, formulates the government's vision for 5G.
The coming months will have to demonstrate to what extent this vision can be transformed into a concrete objective. The auction, to which four mobile network operators were admitted for the first time in 2019, ended with a result of almost 6.55 billion euros. The licenses will run until the end of 2041. At the end of November, the Federal Network Agency published the conditions for applying for private 5G licenses.
High-Speed Broadband Coverage Lies in the Hands of Businesses
For the first time since the introduction of digital mobile communications, the Federal Network Agency has reserved a frequency range that was not auctioned off over frequencies. This underlined the value of 5G for industrial and logistic pro cesses. "The auctioned frequencies can be used nationwide for 5G after allocation. High-speed broadband coverage is thus in the hands of the companies.
The network operators can put their network planning in concrete terms and expand their networks quickly," explained Jochen Homann, President of the Federal Network Agency in a press release on September 4th, 2019. Does this mean that 5G is now ready for use in industry and logistics?
Does 5G Replace the Previous Generation of Mobile Communications?
The beginning of 5G is not the end of 4G/LTE. The plan is for both technologies to form the basis for further development in addition to the existing mobile network. According to the network operators, the parallel operation of both technologies should ensure greater capacities and faster network speeds in the future. At the same time, the 4G/LTE expansion in Germany and worldwide is still far from reaching the anticipated peak. The experts at 3GPP expect 3G/UMTS to achieve maximum global coverage in 2020, 4G/LTE in 2030, and 5G is expected to reach its global coverage peak in 2040.
What Advantages do 5G Networks Generate for the German Economy?
The expectations for 5G are high. The technological features – high data rates and low latency times – enable concepts for process optimization in industry and logistics that depend on real-time communication. The technological possibilities of the fifth generation of mobile communications are of particular interest for applications in industry:
- Peak data rates per radio cell of up to 20 Gbit/s (downlink) and 10 Gbit/s (uplink)
- Latency times of almost one millisecond for end users
- Network density: Up to one million participants per square kilometer
- Communication even at speeds of up to 500 km/h
Benefits Lie in Real-Time Integration
In conclusion, the use of 5G in industrial and logistical processes means that applications that previously relied on wired data communication will, in the future, be able to communicate over 5G with comparable quality. However, this advantage is not synonymous with the complete replacement of fixed cabling. A permanently installed production machine in a factory that uses 5G communications in the future instead of cables to connect to the production control system will not generate any added value. The expected, distinct benefits lie especially in the real-time integration of mobile equipment, robots, transport systems and much more.
Wireless Technologies in the Industry – An Overview
3G/4G – and later also 5G – compete in industrial environments with a number of other technological solutions for building local campus networks that are based on wireless communications. Each wireless technology offers certain advantages and disadvantages.
- Proprietary wireless solutions such as ZigBee or Bluetooth are suitable for shorter communication paths of less than 100 meters and data rates of significantly less than 100 Mbit/s, depending on the design.
- LPWAN technologies such as LoRa or SigFox achieve data rates of just over 100 kBit/s, but can cover ranges of around ten kilometers or more.
On the plus side of these two wireless technology solutions are a low energy requirement of the wireless components and the possibility of achieving a high number or density of users in a network. These two aspects result in a high cost efficiency of these low-power technologies. Shown on the opposite page are WiFi/ WLAN systems and solutions based on mobile communications technologies from 3G to 5G.
- WiFi/WLAN guarantee high data rates even beyond 100 Mbit/s at comparatively short ranges of less than 100 meters. The energy consumption is higher than with low-power technologies. Advantage: WiFi infrastructures are widely used in factory and logistics environments.
- Mobile communications technologies form a 'high-end solution' in industrial environments with high data rates, low latency times and the ability to detect fast moving objects.
Use Case: Handover Without Disrupting Communications
In industrial production, mobile applications in particular will benefit from production-wide 5G availability. An example of this being driverless transport systems. A large proportion of the AGVs used communicate with control systems via WLAN. One disadvantage is that WLAN technology does not support handovers. If an AGV moves through a factory and reaches the limit of wireless coverage of a WLAN access point, communication is interrupted for a short period.
On the basis of a 5G network, AGVs are able to communicate without interruption regardless of speed or the number of participating vehicles in the network. In case of transitions, a new connection is always established first before the existing one is terminated.
Obligations Must be Fulfilled
Area coverage of up to 100 Mbit/s as 'quid pro quo' for the 5G rollout. The so-called coverage requirements for the four network operators licensed for frequency allo cation – Telekom Deutschland, Vodafone, Telefónica Germany, and Drillisch Netz – are extensive. In accordance with the frequency allocation after the end of the auction, it must be guaranteed, according to the Federal Network Agency, that “the allocation holders will, among other things, provide 98 percent of the households in each federal state and all federal motorways, the most important federal roads and railways with at least 100 Mbit/s by the end of 2022.
By the end of 2024, all other federal roads are to be provided with at least 100 Mbit/s, and all state and national roads, the seaports and major waterways, and all other railways with at least 50 Mbit/s.”.
Provision Requirements Not Yet Fully Met
In a press release – as of May 2020 – the Federal Network Agency announced, "that a review has shown that Telefónica, Telekom and Vodafone were not able to provide evidence of full compliance with the service obligations in due time. According to their own statements, the companies Telekom and Vodafone have in principle fulfilled the obligation to cover households. According to their own statements, Telefónica was not able to meet the coverage requirements demanded by the Federal Network Agency in due time. However, the company expects to meet the requirements by the end of this year.
5G: Make or Buy?
For the first time in the history of frequency band auctions since 2000, the Federal Network Agency omitted a defined area when allocating 5G frequencies. The frequency range between 3.7 GHz and 3.8 GHz is available to companies, municipalities or institutions such as universities. The prices that the Federal Network Agency charges for a private 5G license are considered moderate. The fees charged are calculated on the basis of the required frequency spectrum, the area on which a network is to be implemented and the term of the license.
Compared to the frequency band auction, companies interested in private 5G licenses do not have to bid for the frequencies but can instead apply for them at the Federal Network Agency. In the future, there will be two different options for building a private 5G campus network – Make-or-Buy.
1. Option: Make
A company plans, implements and operates a local 5G wireless access with a self-sufficient 5G network on its own premises. The sole and exclusive responsibility for data management and security, as well as usable services/applications on the network, such as edge computing, lies with the campus network operating company. A connection to the public wireless network is technically possible via a firewall.
2. Option: Buy
A company 'buys' a campus network from one of the four network providers. As a service provider, this provider then implements a closed wireless network and must guarantee high data security with fast data transmission at low latency times. The network operator is also responsible for a guaranteed availability of high bandwidths with a previously defined data throughput.
Access from the public network to a campus network installed for a customer is not possible. On the other hand, a private campus network is always connected to the public network in order to provide communication with participants in the public network; for example, with suppliers or external service providers.
Release 16 comprises standardization measures for international mobile communications. It was prepared by the 3GPP. Among the innovations in Release 16 are optimized V2X support per 5G, local area network support for 5G, cell-based IoT support and further development, 5G-based positioning, and lower power consumption. Release 16 was completed at the beginning of July 2020. Release 17 is already in the development phase.
3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)
The 3GPP is entrusted with the further development of international mobile communications standards. Partners of 3GPP are the major standardization organizations of information and telecommunication technology. The partner for Europe is the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) based in France.
In accordance with the further development of the wireless mobile network, ETSI focuses on UMTS and GSM; other partners such as ATIS (USA) or CCSA (China) work with a special focus on their respective wireless mobile networks.