Dedicated networks for industrial connectivity
As manufacturers address modernization, automation and digitalization, dedicated networks offer a way to support multiple use cases, retain control of network resource allocation and ensure that critical data remains on-site.
- Manufacturers are increasingly consolidating their IT connectivity onto a single dedicated 4G/5G network platform. As the complexity of networking grows, there is a trend to outsource more of their communications infrastructure.
- Manufacturers have a range of choices to secure 5G spectrum as it is being assigned in different countries using a number of different models.
New choices for industrial connectivity
The process of integrating the networks of one or more manufacturing sites can be triggered by a need to replace legacy networks or the increasing mobility requirements of their operations. Focus has been on improving network performance in lighthouse sites for a few notable use cases. Many sites currently run multiple connectivity platforms (LMR, cables, Wi-Fi etc.) for specific functions. This has been a challenge for enterprise digitalization efforts, which essentially need to pull together and structure diverse data sets. A unified platform is required which integrates voice, data, video and IoT.
Attention is now broadening from lighthouse cases to operational mainstream, and the next steps include standardized connectivity across company sites globally, and improved visibility across end-to-end supply chains.
Manufacturers that see 5G as a new platform for their operational technology (OT) often state that they need dedicated resources to ensure critical manufacturing processes are guaranteed the connectivity resources they require. There are various ways to implement this, but the early adopters have concluded that they require dedicated networks.
Industry digitalization is setting requirements and driving demand for dedicated networks
Enterprises provided key input to 3GPP in the development of the IMT-2020 (5G) standards, resulting in cellular networks designed for their needs. Industry bodies now combine membership from both manufacturing and ICT companies, for example with 5GAA in automotive, and 5G-ACIA in industry. The Critical Communications Association (TCCA) pulls together stakeholders in the public safety arena. These three organizations are Market Representation Partners to 3GPP, providing input on their industry needs.
In the newly emerging field of air traffic management for beyond line-of-sight (BVLOS) drones, bodies such as NASA and FAA in the US, EASA in the EU, and the Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Association (GUTMA) work on standards, and 3GPP follows with work items to align.
For live broadcast production (e.g. news gathering, sports coverage) the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has a working group for 5G in Content Production (5GCP), while 3GPP studies the requirements of audio and video production.
These are examples of industries now taking steps to incorporate connectivity and cellular into their standards, as many industrial enterprises are defining 5G as their primary connectivity platform for both IT and OT systems to reach new levels of productivity, security and safety.
Choosing the frequency bands with which to build their connectivity platform presents a set of strategic issues for manufacturing enterprises: low-band (e.g. 700–900MHz) provides great coverage while high-band (e.g. 25GHz and above) trades off coverage for greater capacity over much shorter distances. Mid-band offers a compromise between the two. Beyond the significantly different performance characteristics, a specific band that is globally or regionally harmonized is attractive, while those which are country-specific may not be. Multinationals will want to know which bands will work for their specific sites, and which will work for them globally for future expansions and integration with suppliers and customers.
One new parameter at play is the release of locally licensed spectrum by national regulators for industry use. Regulatory authorities in the US, Europe, Japan and other markets are making available new spectrum dedicated for local use, on top of the spectrum already provided to service providers for national networks. Countries differ, but most of the focus is on releasing additional 5G spectrum (mid-band and mmWave high-band) because 5G is seen as a key enabler of industrial competitiveness. Germany was an early mover, announcing spectrum reserved for use in dedicated networks with fees based on bandwidth, geographical area covered and duration of the license.
Manufacturers – and other businesses that operate big facilities – have a range of choices to secure 5G spectrum as it is being assigned in different countries using a number of different models. The choices vary from signing a traditional SLA with a nationally licensed service provider to investing in dedicated spectrum delimited by bandwidth, time and geographical area then building – or contracting – a dedicated network.
The map indicates countries that have already assigned 5G spectrum for private networks (in green) and those that are currently considering it (in yellow). The US (in blue) is a special case which has identified 150MHz in the 3.5GHz band for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). It will be administrated in a three-tiered model: Incumbent Access (mostly US Navy and satellites), Priority Access (to be auctioned in June 2020), and General Authorized Access (unlicensed).
The role of service providers in dedicated networks
Historically, many manufacturers have built, owned and operated one or more elements of their communications infrastructure in-house, but over time this has gradually changed to outsourcing more elements, driven by the growing complexity of the technologies. Making the jump from analog to digital was manageable for many industries; however, through successive digital technologies it has become increasingly challenging. With the advent of LTE, and now 5G, for many industries it no longer makes sense to build, own and operate infrastructure that is not a core business. That said, a service provider that is willing and able to release sufficient spectrum and deliver the service required by an industrial enterprise is not always available, so enterprises have requested regulators give them an option of acquiring spectrum directly for their purposes and potentially building networks themselves.
Industrial enterprises are experienced in running their own connectivity networks for OT in-house, but a dedicated LTE or 5G network needs to be designed, integrated, optimized and managed. Service providers are skilled in this area and comfortable managing frequent 3GPP new releases of functionality.
A service provider can bring value by offering a service that combines locally licensed and public spectrum. This could include adding spectrum in low-band or the lower mid-band, and frequency division duplex (FDD) for Massive IoT. The service provider’s low/mid-band spectrum (e.g. 1800 or 2600MHz) could host VoLTE services or Massive IoT devices with LTE-M and/or NB-IoT, and the remainder of the carrier capacity can be used for LTE or New Radio (NR) operation with dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) which dynamically allocates radio resources between the two. With FDD, coexistence with the outdoor public network is straightforward, and it could migrate over time increasingly from LTE to NR. The industry licensed spectrum (e.g. 3.7–3.8GHz band in Germany) can be used for NR, with focus on ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC).
In an early phase, DSS could be considered with a combined LTE/NR operation on the carrier. Over time, the LTE devices can be migrated to the low/mid-band carrier, and the carrier becomes a clean NR carrier that can be optimized for URLLC operation. In contrast to the situation of local license only as described above, the phasing out of LTE on the carrier requires only moving the devices to another lower LTE band, without a need to replace the devices.
While industry licensed spectrum can be employed in the site, the site will still need public network mobile coverage for staff personal use, worker productivity tools and contractors on-site.
The coexistence of public and private networks needs careful consideration to avoid interference.
Integrating the end-to-end supply chain adds another dimension, as logistic hubs such as airports and seaports are host to multiple service companies operating on-site. Digitalization projects depend upon securing wider access to data, shared within sites, between sites and between parties. In the case of critical national infrastructure, public safety workers may need on-site roaming access for emergencies. These factors drive a need for a capable connectivity platform rather than the legacy of incompatible networks.
The use of multi-operator core networks (MOCN) and radio resource partitioning (RRP) is one way for public and private networks to efficiently coexist, splitting the traffic generated from the same radio units on-site. This can be an effective model, provided it fulfills the enterprise’s requirements.
While it is evident for many industries that data is a highly prized competitive asset, it is an exception rather than a rule that an industrial site requires to work in complete isolation from other sites or indeed from upstream/downstream supply chain partners and customers. Secure mobility for both local and wide area communications is a growing requirement of many industries.
Service providers are able to offer advanced mobility solutions that combine local spectrum with their own national spectrum assets.
As the complexity of networking grows, manufacturers are outsourcing more of their communications infrastructure.
This data-driven environment is what drives industrial enterprises to evolve their operations with an embedded connectivity platform for the future. Spectrum can be obtained in different ways, e.g. by an SLA with a service provider or through dedicated locally licensed spectrum. These solutions may be complimentary.
Example 1: Dual-slice campus networks for Osram, provided by Deutsche Telekom
A private LTE network has been deployed on the Osram factory campus by Deutsche Telekom, leveraging the existing publicly available LTE mobile network infrastructure.
Osram and Deutsche Telekom are prototyping and testing a mobile robotics solution at the Osram factory in Schwabmünchen. A flexible production environment is being developed where automated guided vehicles (AGV) will be used to transport goods throughout the factory. The AGV scans its environment in the factory and sends the data through the campus network to an application in the cloud edge, enabling autonomous control of the transport system.
Deutsche Telekom is deploying the campus network solution based on a dual-slice approach. This solution combines and integrates public and private LTE connectivity on Deutsche Telekom spectrum, where it can be enhanced with a local IT edge cloud deployment.
The network is achieving latencies of <20ms and sufficient capacity for the factory use cases. Going forward, 5G will bring even lower latency and more capacity in both uplink and downlink when needed. Applications such as AGVs are assured priority with the use of quality-of-service class identifier (QCI) priority classes.
The use of network features such as MOCN and RRP, where the radio splits traffic resources between private and public, provides Osram with dedicated network resources and capacity while benefiting from the existing mobile infrastructure footprint and coverage.
It also ensures that private and public radio is built in coordination on FDD spectrum to avoid interference. Deutsche Telekom is able to provide Osram with the dedicated on-site connectivity it needs, while coordinating public and private radio resources effectively.
Example 2: Dedicated network on industry spectrum for Groupe ADP and Air France-KLM
In January 2020, the French regulatory body granted a 10-year 4G/5G license to Hub One, a subsidiary of Groupe ADP (Aéroports de Paris), to launch a high-speed private mobile network covering the Paris airports of Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget. The license grants 40MHz of time division duplex (TDD) spectrum on the 2570–2620MHz band (2.6GHz, B38A).
The 3 airports collectively host approximately 120,000 employees from around 1,000 companies daily. Hub One is a telecommunications service provider delivering network services to many of the companies operating on-site. One of the largest is Air France-KLM, which requires high-performance networking for ground service engineering teams and for retrieving aircraft telematics data.
A dedicated network with both micro cells on gates and macro cells for wide area coverage is currently being installed. Initial use case testing has included ramp and ground staff activities including tablet/mobile telephony, LTE broadcast push-to-talk (PTT) and luggage tracing. The private mobile radio (PMR) systems currently in place have low data rates, and Hub One and Air France-KLM chose an LTE-based system for high data capacity allowing applications such as AR video sharing to enhance site worker productivity.
Future uses include telematics data transfer during taxiing for predictive and preventive maintenance, as well as improved efficiency of software and content updates for onboard data servers.
Quality and security are prerequisite factors in aircraft operations, which influenced the decision to implement a 3GPP cellular network based on LTE and 5G.