By Hector McKirdy, Principal
The adoption of 5G in the industrial sector continues at pace and market intelligence suggests that the next 12 to 24 months will see significant developments from industrial firms as use case scenarios are mapped out and technology roadmaps become clearer. Telecoms companies themselves are still in a period of development and growth with their 5G offerings which to an extent will also drive the rate of network change in the industrial space.
Data is king and connectivity is key for industrial firms to advance their tech and keep pace with the competition. Product design and development in the sector is influenced by the speed at which data can be transferred, and the arrival of 5G allows not only for greater innovation but will also have a major impact on digital business transformation, including supply chain, billing, and cash flow.
The drive for continued commercial digital transformation and the long expected but now developing use of edge computing are also great influencers on the adoption of 5G. Edge, an obvious bedfellow to 5G, is providing the ability to move computing away from centralised data centres, instead engaging devices at the edge of a network thereby increasing speed of connection and data flow. In conjunction with 5G the possibilities for low latency network architecture are immense.
There are however some serious considerations for the industrial sector. Integrating 5G with existing networks and legacy systems, usually over multiple vendors, has its challenges. Estimating return on investment where additional infrastructure work is necessary can prove difficult. With the continued focus on sustainability and the environment, industrial firms will be considering the impact of their own work, but will also be reviewing the sustainability credentials of the 5G providers too.
A driver behind the adoption of private 5G networks is most certainly network security. Where 5G has designed security controls that address many of the threats faced by 4G and 3G networks, challenges around decentralised security borne from edge computing and vulnerabilities by association have driven highly sensitive commercial concerns to evaluate private networks. According to Capgemini’s 2021 report “More than a third of industrial organizations across sectors surveyed prefer to deploy private 5G networks, with interest in private 5G networks led by the semiconductor and high-tech sector (50%), followed by aerospace and defence (46%).” Early-stage adopters of private 5G networks are aiming to achieve a high reliability service with the support to increase development of low-latency applications alongside increased network security. Similar to the early days of cloud adoption there seems to be a preference for private networks, where firms can manage their own network preferences and build entirely to support their specific products and services.
Miramar’s industrial and automotive practices support clients going through change, transformation and innovation. We are working with some of the world’s best known blue-chip firms to hire leaders for new flagship Industry 4.0 production sites and are currently supporting a global brand to assess the market for 5G leadership capability worldwide as they continue to innovate their own products and services to match the development of the 5G network. As brands see the value in coopetition and have begun to engage with their contemporaries, shared knowledge and shared expertise is helping to progress the long talked about adoption of full scale 5G in the sector.