Aerial view of a factory

5G accelerates the Smart Factory

Successful with high-speed thanks to a local 5G campus network

IoT network with higher performance

5G is more than just a further technological leap for the network of the future. The future mobile communications standard and successor to LTE Advanced will make the mobile communications network more powerful than ever before. What is also to be considered: the Internet of Things (IoT) presents companies with major digital challenges.

A whole new network for the Internet of Things

Machine arm in an industrial plant

According to IDC forecasts, around two billion internet-connected smartphones will be in circulation in 2020. Depending on the forecast, there will be in addition to this, up to 50 billion connected devices, cars, and machines, the majority of which will be in production. These connected devices all communicate with one another, with the cloud, and with users. This is, above all, of great significance for smart factories in Industry 4.0. In the smart factory, self-driving robots transport components from station to station. Machines report the deterioration of their components in sufficient time before they break down in production. Service technicians in the intelligent factory identify defective parts in seconds using augmented reality.

Stable networks: the foundation of the smart factory

To facilitate all of this, the network connection between the networked "things" and the backend server must correspond to the requirements of the applications. Data for remotely controlled machines has to be transmitted extremely quickly and reliably. In addition, a smart factory needs a network that simultaneously supports a high number of terminals. And all of these requirements are also increasingly becoming mobile – as a result, radio connections instead of classic cables become more important. The current mobile communications standard, LTE Advanced (4G), meets these manifold demands with data rates of up to 1 gigabit per second, latencies of about 20 milliseconds, and connectivity for up to 10,000 devices per square kilometer.

From 4G to 5G

The mobile communications standard 5G will offer in the future even higher bandwidth compared to UMTS, LTE (Long Term Evolution), and LTE Advanced (4G), the mobile communications; the data transfer between base station and connected device is therefore carried out significantly quicker than on the LTE network. The combination with edge computing additionally provides a significant acceleration of response times, which is particularly important for time-critical applications such as self-driving transport systems and, for example, future machine controls. The technology transfers the data analysis from a remote cloud near the base stations. If two devices communicate with one another over the mobile communications network within range of one of these base stations, this shortens the data transfer distance, and the number of intermediary network components is significantly reduced. This also reduces the transfer time (latency).

The term 5G doesn't just conceal a fast wireless protocol. In contrast to LTE, the mobile communications standard of the future has new, intelligent features in the mobile communications network. "5G is a complete ecosystem consisting of many sub-components," says Michael Einhaus, professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Leipzig.

Thanks to intelligent network slicing technology, several virtual networks can be installed on the same physical network infrastructure. In this way, data from each application class is transferred over its own virtual mobile communications network which has been specially optimized for this application class. This stops other data streams from interfering with them and each application can be set up with the most optimal network functionality. This is critical for the success of many applications – and is usually not possible with Wi-Fi.

Campus network at Osram

In its smart factory, the company Osram is remotely controlling robots for the production of its lighting products. The first campus network of its kind is making this possible. Osram is operating this together with Telekom. An IoT example for the Industry 4.0 smart factory in which robots communicate with one another over the internet.

5G Campus-Network as a managed service

Two businessmen with tablet discuss in front of modern industrial plant

The majority of networked “things” in Industry 4.0 are still communicating at close range over Wi-Fi. But the technology is reaching its limits. At the same time, the transmission quality of wireless communication is improving. T-Systems is taking advantage of this and offering companies 5G Campus-Networks as a Managed Service.

As part of the 5G Campus-Network, Deutsche Telekom is offering its customers a private, local 5G network, completely separate from the public mobile communications network. Industry 4.0 companies therefore have exclusive use for their smart factory. To implement this, Telekom installs additional wireless technology on the company’s premises.

5G: the ideal solution for smart factory mobile communication

In addition to setting up and operating the local infrastructure with higher bandwidths and extremely short latency periods, T-Systems ensures the quality of demanding wireless connectivity. After all, reliable, fast, and secure data transmission is critical to the success of many IoT applications in the smart factory.

Depending on the selected service option, the data from the private wireless network on site is transferred directly to a campus edge cloud or the local company network with very minimal latency. It is then transported to an operator edge cloud in the mobile communications network close to the site. Alternatively, the data can be sent encrypted over the internet to the company's Wide Area Network.

Employees and visitors to the premises also benefit. At the smart factory site, they receive significantly better speech and data communication reception compared to LTE. External service providers and suppliers can likewise connect via the public network. This allows, for example, system maintenance to be carried out. If necessary, the company can additionally secure this connection using special software. 5G campus networks are therefore the ideal solution for mobile communication in the smart factory. They are likewise suited for modern Industry 4.0 intralogistics and can generally be applied anywhere where performance, range, and security requirements exceed the scope of the existing networks.

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