Data connections beyond the gigabit barrier will have a positive impact on the economic success of companies. 5G mobile communications, based on the LTE network, are still in the research phase. However, German providers want to establish a commercially available and nationwide service as early as 2019, which will make the new network attractive for companies thanks to its speed and security.
The term 5G refers to a radio standard that maximises data throughput on previously unused frequencies while minimising latency times. This technology will transmit up to 20 gigabits per second in three different gigahertz ranges. Their response time is only a few milliseconds shorter than with 4G networks. In addition to speed, the security aspect plays a major role in the development of the protocol: In order to prevent external access, the transmission is laboriously encrypted. This means that hackers will no longer be able to intercept data via modified radio antennas. The new standard also scores in terms of the environmental balance: Despite the faster connection, 5G manages with around ten per cent of the electricity compared to the LTE network.
A further feature is the establishment of so-called “private LTE networks“:Some frequencies are reserved for corporate customers, who can thus expand their own wireless intranet on their factory premises. Since the bits and bytes do not run through the servers of providers, this ensures greater data security in operation, and sensitive information is optimally protected. 5G can even replace the WLAN structure of industrial companies in the future: The wireless standard penetrates walls better and offers higher throughput rates than standard 2.4 GHz routers. This minimises hops, the paths within the network infrastructure, and enables lower latency times.
The advantages of the new technology make them attractive for different application scenarios. One of these is autonomously driving automobiles: In order to ensure a regulated flow of traffic and prevent accidents, the on-board computers must be able to communicate with surrounding vehicles as quickly as possible. 5G with its speed, throughput rates and low latency can play a decisive role here.
In industry, too, the new mobile communications standard closes gaps that have so far been caused by expensive in-house production: The idea of Smart Factories or the Internet of Things is based on networking different technologies without employees having to take care of the controlling. Combined with cloud computing, 5G enables centralised computing power, making clients cheaper and existing systems easier to scale.
Another area of application is logistics centres. The smallest 5G transmitters allow the complete and real-time monitoring of incoming and outgoing goods, which benefits the automation of processes. This also applies to production lines that are centrally controlled by a redundant wireless network. Malfunctions in production can be immediately rectified in this way and parameters can be adjusted without great delay. Production effort is also minimised, as individual devices and systems will be able to communicate independently with other robots in the future.
In view of the expected investment costs, many companies have so far hesitated to integrate the advantages of the 5G network into their digital strategy. With its5GStrategy Paper,however, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has already presented a concrete expansion plan for the coming years: From 2020 onwards, parts of the mobile communications network are to be equipped with the new radio standard. By 2025 at the latest, providers must "substantially expand" their capacities. The USA is already one step ahead:The American subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom announced in February 2018thatit will equip approximately 30 cities with 5G. Consumer end devices, which will be on the market as of 2019, should then benefit from the new speed boost.
The main providers of telecommunications hardware, Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia, surpass their speed records every two months. However, 5G's path to productive work environments depends not only on the speed of the network, but also on the factors of reliability and profitability. The example of the Port of Hamburg points to the future: In February 2018,Deutsche Telekominstalled a 5G antenna on the premises, covering a total area of 8,000 hectares.
In order to test the practical benefits of the technology in an industrial environment, several receivers in the port area will be integrated into the existing infrastructure by 2020. This ensures precise positioning of the containers on the site, control of internal traffic lights and monitoring of factory traffic. Already today, the provider transmits virtual reality applications via mobile communications in real time, which help to monitor the grounds, for example. Such pilot projects will be an exciting touchstone for the industrial application of 5G technology.