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5G Digital Indoor System as a Key Enabler of Enterprise Digital Transformation

by Guang Yang | Jun 04, 2020

Enterprises warmly welcome 5G

During the recent Huawei Analyst Summit 2020, Huawei introduced some impressive 5G B2B cases, such as the 5G based healthcare applications in the fight against COVID-19. These applications prove the point of view of my previous blogs: 5G Standalone Architecture has the unique advantage in today’s enterprise connectivity market. The end-to-end SLA capability and the flexible deployment options together can perfectly meet the demand of enterprise’s digital transformation. Actually global enterprise customers have shown strong interest in the 5G solution.

According to the latest European 5G Observatory Report, 5G trials involving vertical industries have increased in Europe. In the 233 trials that have been conducted in 30 countries (25 of the 27 EU MSs and the UK, Russia, San Marino, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland) by March 2020, around one third involve vertical industries. “The most trialled verticals are media and entertainment (36 trials) followed by transport (31 trials) and automotive (22 trials).” There are also almost 20 trials for Industry 4.0 scenario.

In China, “5G + Industrial Internet” has become an important part of the “construction of new infrastructure.” Government and leading industrial players are accelerating the 5G deployment for industrial digital transformation. For instance, the authority of Shanghai – the largest city of China – has announced a plan to support industrial players to build more than 100 unmanned factories, unmanned production lines and unmanned workshops in next 3 years.

Specific spectrum has been allocated for local or regional usage in some countries, such as Germany, Japan and the UK, to enable the private 5G network deployment for vertical industry. Since the local 5G spectrum allocation was officially launched in Germany last October, more than 30 large German industrial firms have bought the private 5G spectrum licenses, including BMW AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Volkswagen AG, BASF SE and Deutsche Lufthansa AG, etc. In February, Fujitsu got Japan's first private 5G license to build a 5G network for its Shin-Kawasaki Technology Square office in Kawasaki, Japan.

Win-Win Cooperation between Enterprise and CSP

The enterprise 5G deployments could be a good opportunity for Communication Service Providers (CSPs), even if the deployment is based on the private spectrum.  In February, Deutsche Telekom built a campus network for the BMW Group Leipzig plant. The campus network consists of a private mobile network that is exclusively available to the BMW Group's plant. There is also a public network in addition to the private campus network. This ensures a perfect connection even for terminal devices that are not allowed to transmit in the private network. The dual-slice solution enables Deutsche Telekom to extend the network coverage into BMW’s campus and serving for the future network upgrade.

In April, China Unicom signed the agreement with the Shanxi Huozhou Coal Group to lease China Unicom’s 5G network for the private 5G use in the coal mine and provide managed service for the smart mining applications. The value of the 6-year contract is up to RMB 12.3 million.  This creates a strong business case for CSP to enter the 5G Industry Internet market. CSP and the enterprise – which needs 5G connectivity but not owns any spectrum – could build win-win cooperation. 5G becomes a stepping stone for CSP to enter the broader enterprise digital transformation market. 

5G Digital Indoor System as a foundation of 5G enterprise applications

In an enterprise 5G network, most of applications are deployed in indoor environments. Their requirements on network connectivity vary significantly.

In smart factory scenario – such as Mercedes-Benz “Factory 56”, the driverless transport system – the so-called “TecLine” – plays a key role for the flexible manufacturing. The Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communication (URLLC) connectivity is required to control the TecLine precisely.

To enable the automatic defect detection in a product line, a large amount of images need to be transferred from a scan camera that is installed over the conveyor belt to a cloud server with artificial intelligence that can analyse the images and tell a robotic arm at the end of the conveyor belt to remove any parts that have defects (see the smart factory empowered by SK Telecom). This not only requires low latency connectivity, but also requires high data bandwidth. 

In the case of the smart mining in China, the requirements are more diverse. The remote control of mining machine requires both high bandwidth and low latency. To upload the surveillance video in real-time, the uplink bandwidth requirement could be over 1 Gbps. Meanwhile, the large amount of sensors and meters in the coal mine tunnel for environment monitoring create a typical massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC) use case. Network slicing capability is necessary to handle these diverse requirements.  

The traditional Distributed Antenna System (DAS) has not been able to meet such diverse and challenging requirements. The Digital Indoor System (DIS) should be must-have for the enterprise 5G deployment to support digital transformation.  

Cross industry collaboration and standardization key for enterprise 5G development

In the enterprise 5G market, CSPs and 5G equipment vendors are also facing various regulatory requirements of the vertical industries. For instance, to provide the 5G connectivity in the coal mine tunnel for smart mining applications, China Unicom has to work with its vendor and customer to improve the 5G basestation implementation in order to meet the specific safety requirements. Only when the 5G basestation got the underground explosion-proof certificate from China’s coal mine safety regulator, can China Unicom kick off the deployment of the 5G network.

The enterprise connectivity market is a long tail market. The deployment scenario and requirement often vary significantly. A unified industry standard would make much sense to aggregate requirements and extend the scale of economy. China’s 5G hospital network standard is such an example. The standard was made through the collaboration between three large Chinese CPSs, Huawei – the largest 5G equipment vendor – and some well-known Chinese hospitals. Technical requirements were specified for 8 typical applications in a hospital, such as remote diagnosis, video interactive consultation, intensive care, etc. The unified standard boosts the adoption of 5G smart hospital in China. By mid-May, more than 300 5G hospitals have been launched. It’s expected the number of 5G hospitals in China would be over 13,000 by 2025.

Above cases indicate that the understanding on vertical industry regulations and the industrial standardization are important for CSPs to develop their enterprise 5G businesses. The broad cross-industry collaboration plays a crucial role in the process. Based on the collaboration and standardization, 5G digital indoor system can become a key enabler of the enterprise digital transformation.

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