5G – a key factor on the way to the digital enterprise

Almost five years ago, the standardisation body 3GPP launched the “5G” standard – the abbreviation stands for fifth-generation mobile radio, sometimes also referred to as “5G NR” (5G New Radio). “New Radio” because this technology is not simply a further development of previous technologies, which originally started with the digital transmission of voice telephony and led to increasingly sophisticated, bandwidth-intensive point-to-point data transmission functions.

Wireless standard for the IoT

5G was designed from the ground up to be a completely new data transmission standard for the Internet of Things (IoT). A key promise of 5G was to combine the flexibility of a wireless network with the reliability and performance of a wired network. This meant that the development was based on completely new requirements that the new wireless standard had to fulfil. Of course, this included further increasing bandwidths, up to 20 Gbit/s are theoretically possible. However, effective machine-to-machine communication also requires, for example, lower latencies, the aim being less than 1 ms; not forgetting exceptionally high reliability (target value: 99.999 per cent). In addition, many more terminals must be reachable in a small area. Up to 1 million network nodes per square kilometre are mentioned here.

From the point of view of companies, three dimensions can be roughly derived to classify the essential use cases:

– eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband)

– URLLC (Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications)

– mMTC (massive Machine Type Communications)

In addition, there are other outstanding values in terms of energy efficiency, the accuracy of position data and the security of connections. Admittedly, it is such performance data that are always mentioned first because 5G can outperform every other known wireless standard with them. But they do not do justice to the performance of 5G technology by far. Under the surface, it contains much more added value that a company may only notice at second glance. And a whole range of functions that are invaluable, especially when designing, setting up and managing a network.

Virtualisation of network and infrastructure

The really stand-out added value of 5G for companies is the fact that a number of innovative technologies have already been “thought of” and openness to the integration of coming developments has been made a key development goal. One example is the possibility of network virtualisation. This offers significantly more freedom in designing the network infrastructure and adapting to changing requirements.

At the same time, virtual networks are also envisaged, described in the 5G standard as “network slicing”. This allows companies to operate different (virtual) radio networks with different performance data on one physical infrastructure. For example, a network with low bandwidth and low latency requirements is conceivable, over which companies with non-critical sensors and actuators record their measurement and operating values. On another “slice”, reliable, fast and high-bandwidth data transmission is ensured, as companies need, for example, to control autonomous vehicles whose camera images are not analysed on site but by an AI on an edge server. And a third network, which only allows limited data access, is used by the external service provider for remote services.

Open for new things

With each new standard release, more functions are added which, from the point of view of companies, increase the added value of 5G because they simplify the construction and management of the network. Integration of real-time communication TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking), satellite communication, exact positioning and much more have already been adopted or are currently in the works. It is therefore worthwhile for companies to take a look at the possibilities of a 5G network even if they do not need to squeeze out the last ounce of latency, a bandwidth beyond 1 Gbit/s or the connection of several thousand network nodes in a confined space.

Conclusion for corporate decision-makers: More than ever, it is important to include future digital applications in the planning beyond current needs and to provide the necessary digital infrastructure. Due to its possibilities, 5G is increasingly becoming a key factor in this.

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