Building a shared vision for 5G in the UK

- Marielle Lindgren, CEO Ericsson UK & Ireland

Man in robot factory using AR

CEO of Ericsson UK and Ireland

CEO of Ericsson UK and Ireland

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In the UK, 5G is accelerating the digitisation of the economy, bringing huge opportunities to businesses and organisations. With super-fast data rates, ultra-low latency and unprecedented network capacity, 5G enables organisations to realise the full power of Industry 4.0 for the first time. By delivering consistent high volume and real-time data connectivity, 5G can help businesses to leverage innovative technologies like IoT, AI and AR to their fullest extent.

Indeed, research suggests that mobile broadband, internet of things and low latency industrial connectivity – known as expansive mobile – could benefit the UK economy by up to €334bn by 2030.

But is the UK in danger of squandering this opportunity or are industries progressing on schedule?

Firstly, businesses need to capitalise on 5G to solve ongoing operational pain points in industry. 5G can improve areas like automation, collaboration and robotics. Healthcare is an example sector that is in prime position to reap the benefits of 5G. Recent breakthroughs speak for themselves. Ericsson has already been working alongside BT to develop 5G-connected ambulances, with a recent successful performance of the UK’s first remote diagnostic procedure in Birmingham. This successful trial combined augmented reality with robotics to show how 5G can improve critically important healthcare services.

National critical infrastructure is also ripe for transformation. Ericsson and O2 recently partnered with Northumbrian Water to improve services for almost 2.7 million customers through increased productivity, efficiency, and safety. 5G-enabled augmented reality allows experienced technicians to remote guide on-the-ground teams through complex tasks by relaying real-time data and instructions. Multiple remote experts are able to join a single call advising engineering teams on the ground on how to fix issues. If successful the technology could be extended to cover the layout of over 47,210km of water mains, pipes and conduits and would help engineers manage risks and hazards in real-time. Using 5G-enabled video and sensor inspection data for faster quality control is a recurring benefit across many industries, helping to save valuable time, resources and costs.

In the telecoms industry itself, 5G is opening up new revenue streams and is lowering the cost per bit, critical to manage the exponential traffic growth. In the UK, Vodafone and O2 have launched their commercial 5G networks with the use of Ericsson technology catering to both their consumer and business customers. The integration of Ericsson’s customer-focused systems has resulted in fast, efficient and scalable 5G network development. For instance, the Ericsson Radio System 5G technology includes essential dynamic spectrum sharing functionality, which allows the deployment of both 4G and 5G in the same band through a software upgrade, helping to extend network coverage even further.

There is a shared vision for 5G in the UK. Examples include Digital Catapult, which aims to fast-track 5G adoption; and West Midlands 5G (WM5G), an organisation that accelerates access to 5G for businesses across the West Midlands.

Conversations with such organisations and other industry partners have highlighted clear benefits of 5G in the manufacturing industry for companies of all sizes. One is reduced machine down-time through real-time monitoring. By simply moving to condition-based monitoring of critical facility and plant infrastructure, sensors can help achieve 100% uptime. And if errors do occur, the combination of real-time predictive and prescriptive maintenance and improved live wireless communication with maintenance technicians will ensure minimum disruption. The multi-machine connectivity will also improve productivity between autonomous manufacturing cells and human controllers meaning businesses’ productivity will reap huge financial rewards.

With the critical nature of potential use-cases, networks need to withstand any security threats making it essential to have trustworthy end-to-end telecoms networks. Ericsson’s approach for end-to-end security is built in to our products by design, making bolt-on security a thing of the past.

So, is the UK maximising the opportunity 5G presents? Yes, it is gearing up to capitalise on the benefits, but the UK must continue with investment and innovation to maintain its position as a 5G leader. Key areas to focus on are removal of barriers to 5G deployment, supporting eco-system creation to develop IoT and 5G use cases and incentivising network rollout.

At Ericsson, to play our role in supporting the UK, we constantly ask ourselves how we can help accelerate 5G adoption in the UK alongside our customers and partners. We have already delivered first-of-their-kind live commercial networks across four continents and are leveraging our global scale to rapidly introduce new solutions and facilitate 5G interoperability between UK network operators, consumers and industries. Ericsson is committed to providing a broad and flexible 5G portfolio that offers our customers opportunities across an array of industry use cases and applications. Our global experience and 5G capabilities perfectly position Ericsson to anticipate, understand and deliver emerging 5G use cases that help ensure the UK stays on track to deliver the true potential of 5G.

Catapulting the UK to 5G-enabled Industry 4.0

Technologies like IoT, robotics, and AI are transforming UK businesses, but the lack of consistent, high-quality connectivity is preventing them from realising Industry 4.0’s full potential. With its superfast data rates, ultra-low latency, and vastly increased network capacity, 5G solves this challenge. Digital Catapult, with whom Ericsson has partnered, are doing great work to fast-track 5G adoption in the UK. One of Digital Catapult’s most exciting project is the Industrial 5G Accelerator – a project that promotes the benefits to industry of constant, high-quality 5G connectivity. Aimed at organisations that provide industrial equipment for the manufacturing, logistics and heavy industry markets as well as larger industrial players, the program is supporting faster adoption of Industry 4.0 standards and practices. Digital Catapult’s Industrial 5G Accelerator is a bespoke, challenge-led program that provides businesses with trials and demonstrations, allowing them to test drive the benefits of 5G across a range of scenarios.

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