Despite the hype surrounding 5G smartphones, cell phone transmitters are not yet sophisticated enough to fully support 5G. Meanwhile, major telecommunications companies are struggling to expand 5G networks due to lengthy cell site installations and delays in many regions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, it could take years for 5G technology to reach consumers. As many companies wait for major telecoms to build the infrastructure required to support 5G—particularly in rural regions—others are taking advantage of new rules and innovations that are allowing them to build their own private 5G networks.
In the U.S., Individuals and Companies Create Do-It-Yourself 5G Networks
Major telecommunications companies may soon face big competition from small carriers like WiConnect Wireless, a rural broadband company in Wisconsin, according to the Wall Street Journal. Traditionally, major telecommunications companies that also sell the associated hardware have created the software in 5G cell sites. However, last year, Facebook engineers created Magma, a software platform that allows operators to quickly and easily deploy mobile networks, open sourced, meaning anyone can use Magma to create their own network. Additionally, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently made a strip of mid-band spectrum—Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)—available. This means anyone can register for a portion. As a result, big carriers no longer have exclusive access to spectrum that supports 5G networks, allowing individuals and small carriers like WiConnect Wireless to erect their own on-site 5G networks for under $5,000.
In Europe, Some Factories Turn to Private 5G Networks
Some factories are becoming early adopters of 5G thanks to a recent innovation from German engineering company Bosch Rexroth: 5G modems. The company is using the technology to create modular production lines where all equipment, such as wheeled robots, robotic arms, manufacturing machines, and high-precision power tools, are connected to a private 5G network.
Gunther May, head of technology and innovation at the company’s Automation and Electrification division, told Wired that the technology gives warehouse robots advanced coordination, helps employees spot problems in production lines, and allows for the integration of advanced software—including artificial intelligence-based software—in its factories. It also provides enhanced security, because the company’s 5G network is private, meaning bandwidth doesn’t need to be shared.
Currently, German automakers BMW, Volkswagen, and Lufthansa are piloting private 5G networks in their facilities. Additionally, the Swedish mining company Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, and Finland-based machinery maker Konecranes, also use it.
New System-on-Chip Merges 5G with AI to Support Edge Networks
A new technology startup called EdgeQ has developed a system-on-a-chip (SoC) that merges 5G connectivity with artificial intelligence. The technology could support edge networks, a decentralized alternative to cloud computing that uses smart devices around the “edge” of a network to store data. The company says it expects the technology to deliver private 5G wireless networks to the future industrial Internet of Things.
It may be years before the world sees the full benefits of 5G. However, as more industries take advantage of private 5G networks to increase product quality and the efficiency of their services, we may soon get a glimpse into 5G’s revolutionary benefits.
As technology continues to evolve toward 5G, it’s vital for technical professionals and industry leaders to understand how to deliver on the 5G vision while meeting consumer demand for higher communication speeds. Is your organization ready? Consider training your team with 5G Networks, a three-course program from IEEE and Nokia.
Connect with an IEEE Content Specialist today to learn more about the program.
Interested in learning more about 5G for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network today!
Patrizio, Andy. (30 November 2020). Startup EdgeQ offers 5G and AI for the edge. Network World.
Mims, Christopher. (7 November 2020). Private 5G Networks Are Bringing Bandwidth Where Carriers Aren’t. The Wall Street Journal.
Knight, Will. (5 November 2020). These Factory Robots May Point the Way to 5G’s Future. Wired.