SIGNALS+ NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTION

Stay updated and leverage Signals+ latest insights, information and ideas on Connectivity, Digital Health, Electrification, and Smart Industry.

You can change your privacy settings at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in emails sent from Analog Devices or in Analog’s Privacy Settings.

Privacy Settings Privacy & Security Statement Authorized Partners

Thank you for subscribing to ADI Signals+. A confirmation email has been sent to your inbox.

You'll soon receive timely updates on all the breakthrough technologies impacting human lives across the globe. Enjoy!

Close
Engineers study an augmented reality factory
Engineers study an augmented reality factory
 
Joe Barry
Joe Barry,

Vice President, Wireless Communications

Analog Devices

5G WIRELESS RADIO NETWORKS: THE HEART OF THE FACTORY OF THE FUTURE


The widespread adoption of 5G wireless radio networks will profoundly influence nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives. By re-engineering today’s conventional communications infrastructure, the effects of 5G will be felt much more deeply than 4G/LTE across consumer applications, digital healthcare, smart cities, and transportation. Of all the commercial areas that will be reshaped by 5G wireless radio networks, however, industrial automation—or Industry 4.0—could realize the greatest transformation.

According to IHS Markit¹, even as the global rollout of 5G begins, network infrastructure in industrial and factory settings is predominantly wired. Industrial Ethernet offers the benefits of speed and reliable connectivity but is limited in terms of physical flexibility and bandwidth.

Wireless networks become intrinsically necessary for the smart factory to continue getting smarter. Still, the transition from wired to wireless networking is a complex upgrade. Each industrial customer has a unique set of circumstances—ranging from cultural dynamics to financial position to appetite for innovation—that sways the organization’s ability to make the significant upgrade to wireless.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES OF 5G NETWORKS

$13.9B
IN PRIVATE 5G NETWORKS BY 2028²
$3.4T
5G-ENABLED MANUFACTURING OUTPUT BY 2035³

A SEISMIC SHIFT IN RADIO

The technology at the heart of this seismic shift is the radio. 5G wireless radio networks mark a fundamental departure from 4G and earlier wireless network architectures. 4G networks are very rigidly constructed and typically include a macro base station and an inflexible, core network that largely uses proprietary hardware. They also employ a traditional transmission model in which RF signals are radiated to all users within a sector.

Diagram of 4G base station’s rigid network structure
Current state of rigidly constructed 4G networks.

By comparison, 5G networks incorporate many times the number of radios than 4G is capable of supporting and utilize advanced beamforming techniques that can target specific users and locations to yield a five-fold improvement in spectral efficiency. Of course, boosting radio density without a commensurate increase in size and power means more complexity.

Diagram of 5G base station’s flexible network structure
With more radios comes more complexity, but also more opportunity.

A SEA CHANGE IS COMING WITH vRAN

One of the fundamental changes ADI enables is the transition from a proprietary, fixed radio access network (RAN) to a virtual RAN (vRAN). This marks the evolution from physical, purpose-built 5G hardware to a software-defined alternative, where much of the network operation and management is handled in the cloud. This results in a sea change for how the industry will build and deploy 5G base stations by disaggregating the hardware elements, including the radio, digital and central units, and core network.

The advantage of the vRAN model is that it supports an entirely new class of emerging use cases. This is achieved through the introduction of network slicing in which extremely targeted use of the spectrum can be tuned to serve different applications and different users based on individual needs.

A MORE EFFICIENT SLICE OF PIE FOR 5G WIRELESS RADIO NETWORKS

The short- to mid-term primary vectors along which the network will be sliced:

1. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)

Traditional wireless network but will deliver guaranteed throughput, much higher bandwidth, and larger capacity downloads for ultra-high definition (UHD) video streaming in mobile phones.

2. Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)

Enables large-scale, machine-to-machine connectivity for smartphones as well as millions of devices across smart home and smart city use cases.

3. Ultra-high reliability + ultra-low latency (URLLC)

Used in safety-critical applications like drones, autonomous vehicles, and industrial robots.

Applications distributed across network slices

The future of Industry 4.0 will be served by each of these 5G instantiations to one degree or another. Factory-floor operators will be empowered to manage how and where they slice the network by dynamically allocating resources based on load conditions and other factors.

OVERCOMING SPEED BUMPS ON THE ROAD TO ADOPTION OF 5G WIRELESS RADIO NETWORKS

Shipping vessels in port overlaid with network mesh

Early adopters of industrial 5G will be ports, airports, and logistic hubs followed quickly by factories and warehouses, transportation, construction, utilities, and mining. The rapid expansion of 5G technology will create an environment of enhanced connectivity where people and robots can coexist in a safe, secure, productive, and cost-effective environment. The resulting cost savings, reliability, and manufacturing efficiencies will then lay the groundwork for investments required to develop and deploy highly secure 5G wireless networks globally across multiple factory settings.

While the growth of 5G wireless radio networks is aggressive, the industry must still overcome a series of challenges in order to meet these goals. The first of these challenges is the lack of a clear go-to-market strategy among leading mobile operators. Estimates are more than 70 percent of known deals involving industrial manufacturers do not include telecom providers. The second issue is a systems integration gap between telecoms and managed service providers (MSPs) that threatens to slow the early adoption of 5G private networks by manufacturers. A related scalability problem is the difficulty MSPs are having securing support from their network operations centers. And last, there is a clear lack of engineering, procurement, and construction services required for full-service integration.

ENHANCING 5G WIRELESS RADIO NETWORK ADOPTION THROUGH THE ADI ECOSYSTEM

Factory worker and cobots overlaid with network mesh

So, how do we achieve the kind of scale and cost efficiencies ultimately required to move 5G industrial networks from a state of preparation to full-blown adoption? From an ADI perspective, we’re part of a large ecosystem through our collaboration at the silicon and IP level. We work across many standards organizations and working groups while actively participating with contract manufacturers and 5G system integrators and telecom operators.

Through these engagements, we are conquering steep challenges related to size, weight, power (SWaP) and cost requirements by simplifying the RF and radio design and reducing or eliminating costly FPGAs. Despite multiple form factors—small cell, macro cell, MIMO, single-, dual-, tri-band, and other radio variants—we’re accelerating time to market by developing a common hardware and software platform that delivers scale at speed.

We’re only at the beginning of what’s possible in terms of 5G wireless radio networks and its potential for integration and interoperability. For that potential to be realized, however, we need to cultivate our ecosystem, share a vision of what all parties in that ecosystem want to achieve, and pursue a common approach to engineering and business challenges.

Watch Joe Barry’s complete keynote address:
“Making Factories Wireless with 5G Radios”


Learn how advancements in radio technology will ultimately enable the transition to wireless in the industrial setting.


1IHS Economics & IHS Technology. “The 5G economy: How 5G technology will contribute to the global economy.”
IHS Markit. https://cdn.ihs.com/www/pdf/IHS-Technology-5G-Economic-Impact-Study.pdf.

2“Private 5G Network Market Size Worth $13.92 Billion By 2028 | CAGR: 40.9%.” Polaris Market, June 14, 2021.
https://www.polarismarketresearch.com/press-releases/private-5g-network-market.

3“The 5G Economy.” IHS Markit.