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5G in industry

5G in industry

5G private networks enhance industry productivity

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5G has a vital role to play in accelerating industry productivity. A logistics case study highlighted in this article reports 20 percent improved productivity and 15 percent lower capex compared with Wi-Fi.

Key findings

The fastest way to move beyond trials and drive adoption by businesses is to apply 5G to use cases which surpass the capabilities of Wi-Fi. Examples include those which require high mobility, serve larger coverage areas, or extend beyond office areas onto the factory floor and outdoors.

Private networks today commonly support use cases such as camera and sensor deployment for data analytics, connected workers, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

Frontrunner service providers scale up by targeting multiple use cases per site, address adjacent areas such as logistics zones, and replicate across multiple sites.

5G private networks are now being deployed at scale for the digitalization programs pursued by enterprises, playing a vital role in accelerating productivity.

An Ericsson survey of private networks deployed across a range of industries and countries show the main use cases to be:

  • connected workers
  • autonomous equipment
  • sensors

Figure 18: Frequency of use cases in live operations with 5G private networks

Frequency of use cases in live operations with 5G private networks

Survey of 40 private networks in operation across 15 countries and 10 industries, serving 80 use cases (Ericsson interviews 2024).

Countries: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Sweden, UK, US.

Industries: Aviation, energy, events, healthcare, logistics, discrete and process manufacturing, mining, offshore, ports.

Moving 5G private networks into live operations

As the use cases indicate, the building blocks for enterprise productivity improvements are already there.

However, enterprise digitalization projects can be frustrated by the potentially wide scope, which can result in projects remaining under continuous evaluation and struggling to move beyond the pilot stage.

Use cases that deliver immediate business value are likely to be moved into live operations quickly. For example:

  • For public sports and media events, dedicated network resources ensure reliable communication to support business operations at venues, such as food and beverage facilities, shops and stands and medical and security services.
  • As the energy industry invests in the offshore energy and mineral resources sectors, reliable connectivity is needed in remote areas to monitor equipment performance, for safety and to support on-site maintenance workers.
  • As the mining industry introduces autonomous vehicles and remote-controlled equipment, 5G provides the mobility and latency that the vehicles and equipment depend upon.

5G networks add a vital new dimension for success when digitalization use cases require performance, reliability and security.

These networks coexist with alternatives, such as cables and Wi-Fi. The reasons for introducing 5G private networks include:

  • Providing cost-effective wireless coverage and capacity for large areas – the case presented in this report deployed 5G with 22 radios where Wi-Fi would have required more than 10 times as many hotspots.
  • Addressing demanding radio environments, such as sites featuring building layouts with heavy obstructions such as steel, concrete, raw materials and inventory.
  • Delivering high performance in terms of data throughput in both downlink and uplink (required by cameras), low latency (required by devices supporting industrial protocols such as PROFINET),1 and high resilience.

Case study: CJ Logistics

CJ Logistics is the largest parcel delivery firm in South Korea, with operations in 249 warehousing and distribution centers across 36 countries.

CJ Logistics introduced a private 5G network to the logistics hub in Icheon City, South Korea, to meet the increasing demands upon connectivity in their large warehouses.

Use cases deployed with 5G:

  • handheld scanners and tablets
  • fleet of autonomous guided vehicles and mobile robots

Transformative outcomes:

  • Installed 22 small cells instead of an estimated 300 Wi-Fi access points.
  • Achieved 15 percent of investment savings for infrastructure, relative to Wi-Fi.
  • Realized a significant increase in productivity for over 100 handheld scanners, due to the instant acknowledgment received after scanning via 5G, compared with Wi-Fi response times of several seconds. The time saving is multiplied per scanner and item scanned, increasing the productivity of the scanning operation by 20 percent.

The fastest way to improve business productivity with 5G private networks is to deploy it over large coverage areas, and for high-mobility use cases.

Productivity enhancements are amplified when deployed at scale

Deployments that have the potential to scale span several dimensions:

Scaling coverage within the site

One way to scale is to cover larger sections of the production site – the key is to have the network serve more use cases.

Of the networks surveyed, 60 percent deployed 2 or more use cases into operations simultaneously. AGVs move materials around the floor, cameras monitor the production process for quality, workers are connected with online systems expertise is offered remotely. These three common use cases jointly push the coverage area that the network must serve.

Production sites may cover 100,000 sq m (more than 20 football fields), while examples such as auto-manufacturing, steel and semiconductor plants may extend over areas 5 times larger. Cellular networks are designed for providing radio coverage at such scale and beyond.

Scaling coverage beyond the site

Production sites do not operate in isolation: They are integrated with nearby ports, railways, transit hubs and partners. For example, battery manufacturing may collocate with vehicle production, mining extraction may collocate with a preprocessing plant.

These integration zones represent further potential for productivity gain and scale.

Use case: Camera-based quality inspection

Cameras represent a form of sensor, valued because they are non-invasive, data-rich, easily moved and can be drone-mounted for mobility.

Cameras combined with AI can, for example, interpret quality faults during the production process.

In one case, wasted materials and lost production were reduced by simultaneously inspecting 24 assembly components, compared with inspecting them one-by-one using conventional approaches.2

Insights: Growth vectors adopted by service providers and resellers

Frontrunner service providers and resellers are increasingly addressing private network opportunities holistically by:

  • Crafting an offering with a network that is preconfigured and prepackaged, rather than offering a customized solution that limits scalability.
  • Preparing suppliers, partners, and the wider ecosystem to improve the relevance of the offering.
  • Prioritizing high-profile lighthouse enterprises (those that make targeted investments to get primary use cases off the ground, which other enterprises may emulate).
  • Prioritizing enterprise opportunities the use cases of which go beyond Wi-Fi's capabilities.
  • Revisiting the sales engagement toolkit, adding dimensions such as business case and value calculator tools.
  • Positioning the offering within the bigger picture of the enterprise digitalization or automation agenda.

These growth vectors, adopted by service providers and resellers, are also described in detail in the Ericsson Mobility Report Business Review 2023.

Figure 19: Scaling network coverage beyond the production area, to collocated zones and sites

Scaling network coverage beyond the production area, to collocated zones and sites

Deployment options for service providers to reach enterprises, using both public and private networks

Enterprise needs differ, and service providers and resellers will factor in several parameters as they select the best offering. While this article focuses on private networks, public networks are also readily available with coverage and performance, and can serve enterprises in new ways.

Service providers bring licensed spectrum assets, an existing wide-area network base, and expertise in deploying, optimizing, operating, and supporting cellular networks.

While the network is fundamental, it is only part of the solution. Service providers and resellers can bring additional offerings such as consulting, system integration, or bundle devices such as cameras with analytics capability. Ecosystem engagement, such as engaging with a crane manufacturer or a forklift truck provider that serves the enterprise, can bring value by de-risking the enterprise investment decision. Financing may also be a valued function.

Slicing the public network, for flexibility and speed

If dedicated service levels are required for specific areas or use cases, the public network resources may be sliced to provide committed resources enabled across the end-to-end radio, transport and core network.



Slicing the public network, for flexibility and speed

Extending the public network onsite for performance

For connected workers in remote locations, there may be a requirement for better coverage onsite which can be fulfilled by placing public network radios onsite or in a building.

Where data cannot leave the site, or very low latency is required, the data can be switched locally within the site. This is done by extending the public network by placing radio and the user plane onsite.

Extending the public network onsite for performance

Private networks for performance and security

A private network may be a suitable offering when the enterprise needs:

  • fully dedicated connectivity resources, such as for the main production line
  • fully isolated networks, for security or privacy reasons
  • very low latency, which is commonly expected by industrial protocols such as PROFINET
Private networks for performance and security

Technology evolution: 4G and 5G

While 4G offers lower module prices and generally broader coverage, 5G provides additional spectrum and performance. 5G can be implemented with a 4G dependency (5G NSA) or as standalone (5G SA). The capability needs to be provisioned both in the network and the devices, where considerations include functionality, availability and price.

Reduced capability (RedCap) devices

Where the use case is for widely deployed sensors, a key factor will be whether the sensor has cellular connectivity at the right price point. For this, service providers and sensor providers are preparing for RedCap devices. These use just 20 MHz spectrum rather than 100 MHz, enable low-power consumption, and fit well to the needs of industrial sensors.3

1. PROFINET is an open technical standard for data communication over Industrial Ethernet.

2. Ericsson, "Ericsson works with AWS and Hitachi America R&D to showcase smart factory potential" (August 29, 2023).

3. Ericsson Mobility Report, "RedCap 5G NR expands Broadband IoT possibilities" (November 2023).

Read other articles in Ericsson Mobility Report Business Review 2024
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