The 5G mobile communications standard can fundamentally improve the way companies work. It enables complete networking and innovative handling of data. Together with Open-RAN, however, it can above all make a contribution to more digital sovereignty.
6G is already being planned, but 5G has not yet arrived in many companies. The marketing of mobile phone companies is currently too focused on private users, although the greatest benefit of 5G technology lies in the connection to the Internet of Things (IoT) – and this is of particular interest to industrial companies. The introduction of the new mobile communications standard gives them the opportunity to further develop their business models.
From the pilot project to the trial phase and back
The first 5G use cases for companies already exist. In the port of Hamburg, for example, the “5G-MoNarch” project was successfully completed two years ago by the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), Deutsche Telekom and Nokia. The aim was to monitor environmental data, control traffic lights and enable augmented reality applications. Vodafone and Total, in turn, have set up Europe’s first 5G filling station. These are all exciting projects that show the potential of 5G in many ways. But they are only part of the story. The other part reads like this: A lot has got stuck in the companies in the status of the pilot project. Only a few projects have so far progressed significantly beyond the first test phases. This is fatal. The pandemic has just made it clear that the digitization of machines and processes can increase resilience in critical situations. 5G creates the technological basis for this. Conversely, this means that if companies are hesitant to use this technology, it reduces their ability to successfully overcome crises. On the contrary: You are even exposing yourself to an additional risk.
The reason for the extraordinary importance of 5G lies in the new possibilities for optimizing and controlling internal company processes that the mobile communications standard gives companies. In addition, a large part of the future technologies – from autonomous driving to robotics to telemedical applications or smart farming – rely on the permanent availability of 5G connections and the associated low latencies and large bandwidths. In short: 5G enables innovation – and at the same time increases security for company data.
Networking as a basis
In order to benefit from 5G, it is important for companies to rethink digitization. The introduction of individual tools does not make a digital company and certainly not a digital champion. Rather, this requires a comprehensive network that extends across the entire value chain. Such networking not only includes our own production, but also the networking between the digital IT world, the physical OT world (Information Technology and Operational Technology) and the world of business partners and suppliers. That’s exactly what 5G can do – by providing the necessary high-performance infrastructure.
If this networking step is successful, 5G will make it possible to collect information about your own production processes and capacities in real time, to analyze and use for the development of innovative corporate controls that are data-driven and automated. Such systems could look into the future much better than before by using the fast mobile radio standard, i.e. implement predictive analytics approaches using a large amount of data. 5G supports the reading of sensors with particularly high data rates. Irregularities in production – such as machines that are no longer working precisely or delivery bottlenecks – can be identified at an early stage, stocks and processes can be displayed in real time much more precisely than before.
However, such comprehensive digitization also means dealing with highly sensitive and market-relevant data – and doing so as reliably, stable and securely as possible. a 4G connection, that an autonomously driving vehicle tries to use to compare its data with the information from a cloud server does not meet this criterion: the latency is high, the bandwidth is too low – and above all there is a risk that the transmission will be disrupted or manipulated. This is not the case when using 5G – and that is exactly what characterizes this standard.
Edge computing, which is being promoted with the spread of the 5G standard, plays a central role. Data is not routed via the network operator’s central system as was previously the case, but can be sent directly to the radio cell and transmitted to the relevant company. Edge computing unfolds its full effect in combination with network slicing. The mobile phone provider configures the network in such a way that a separate, virtually isolated network is created to which only a specific group of customers or a specific company has access.
A similar approach – but not just virtual – is offered by the so-called campus networks, the construction of which will enable 5G. These are networks that provide dedicated radio coverage for a campus, i.e. a specific and clearly defined area to be covered.