Manufacturing, industrial sites face 5G private wireless network challenges

Oct. 3, 2022
Manufacturing industrial sites are "slowly realizing" that 5G private wireless networks are core to automation/robotics applications, and crucial for enabling augmented reality (AR) capabilities in plant environments, states a new report by ABI Research.

According to new research from global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, by 2030, manufacturing and industrial firms worldwide will have more than 49 million 5G connections inside their facilities, generating US$2.4 billion in global connections revenue for suppliers.

The new analysis notes that network upgrades can underpin the efforts of manufacturers to automate quality assurance (QA) processes, deploy autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) inside facilities, and upskill employees using augmented reality (AR) technology applications.

A dawning realization

It's becoming more widely known that the lower latency and support for Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) protocols afforded by a 5G network can further enable wireless process automation applications for robotics use cases, as well as increase bandwidth support for data-heavy applications, such as video analytics.

In assessing enlightened industry responses to the new technology, ABI Research concluded that the manufacturing and industrial sector is slowly realizing that 5G private networks are essential for automation, robotics, and augmented reality deployments.

Michael Larner, Industrial and Manufacturing research director at ABI Research, explained:

“Progressive advancements to network performance -- from Wi-Fi to Long Term Evolution (LTE), and from LTE to 5G -- can underpin improvements to customers’ operations. But to maximize the benefits to their operations, customers will need to invest in ancillary technologies, such as edge networking, data management, and data analytics, to accelerate data collection and create a digital thread.”

A vicious circle 

Advancements in technology and greater industry awareness notwithstanding, ABI's analysts note that a lack of 5G industrial devices is actually what has stalled manufacturers’ interest in 5G private wireless networks.

The new report contends this lack of enthusiasm in turn has discouraged hardware suppliers from creating the necessary devices.

As a result of the state of flux, the analyst points out that equipment vendors such as Nokia have launched converged devices supporting Wi-Fi, LTE, and 5G connectivity.

ABI's Larner concludes:

"Suppliers need to showcase the attributes of a 5G network and prove how a 5G network can upgrade operations.

The lack of 5G devices is a genuine drag on adoption, but suppliers -- telcos such as Nokia, Ericsson, NTT; information technology (IT) providers such as HPE, DXC, Dell Technologies; operational technology (OT) specialists Bosch, Siemens and Honeywell; and system integrators (SIs) such as Accenture and Deloitte -- should be working with prospective customers to educate them today about 5G’s potential.”

The analyst's findings are contained in ABI Research’s 5G Private Wireless in Manufacturing market update report, part of the firm's Industrial and Manufacturing research service, which includes research, data, and insights. 

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