“5G’s most significant impacts will be in industrial applications.”
Zyxel has been one of the earliest networking manufacturers to release complete 5G product lines. We spoke to Patrick Hirscher, Zyxel’s EMEA LTE/5G Market Development Manager, about 5G’s most promising applications and markets, and how we can benefit from this emerging technology.
5G is always being called a “game changer”. What makes this emerging technology so important?
5G is a nearly inconceivably large step up from 4G. It’s been growing so rapidly exactly because it delivers quantum leaps in capacity and data rates that are enabling new applications and unlocking more business potential. In addition, because a lot of ISPs are actively promoting 5G services in their contracts, more and more mobile devices like the iPhone 12 support this standard. I think the most significant business value of 5G is its impact for various industry sectors, rather than its consumer applications. Indeed, we expect some of 5G’s most significant impacts to be in industrial applications, especially the manufacturing and logistics industries.
How will 5G impact these two industries?
It’s making the transition to industry 4.0 and smart factory automation not just possible but practical. We’re already seeing this create incredible opportunities for the manufacturing sector – the days of being locked into inflexible, immovable linear production lines and dealing with inaccurate asset tracking are over.
The factory of the future is people and machines working safely together to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and produce goods in a way that meets carbon-neutrality goals. When integrated into smart factory solutions, 5G's faster speeds, lower latency, and greater bandwidth enable companies to increase their factories' throughput by minimizing the downtime required for maintenance and by enabling faster changes to the production line.
Furthermore, logistics warehouse and factory sites need more than only indoor connectivity for inventory checkups and barcode scanning. They also have to connect with their outdoor storage spaces and trucks on the road. Here, 5G allows the automation of manufacturing and supply chain management to more effectively collect and process data, and to synchronize the real-time movement of trucks.
Following on from that, does 5G have a killer application?
We think network slicing is a killer app for 5G as it can address a very common problem that most factories face, namely the complex environments that result from creating multiple separate connections for different factory and office needs. Such a large number of wired and wireless WLANs can lead to patchy internet that will randomly drop out at any time. However, a 5G private network can provide high-quality internet service that avoids network delay and interference while also maintaining network security.
5G is also an optimal choice as the primary WAN for new factories. This is because its large capacity and low latency can achieve manufacturing and supply chain automation for real-time vehicle movement monitoring and data synchronization.
What does 5G have to offer smaller enterprises?
One area that 5G really shines for SMBs is as an option for WAN failover. Once the primary WAN line drops out, be it copper or fiber WAN, 5G can be used as the second WAN line to ensure business continuity. Across 90% of Europe, 5G can provide faster connectivity than fiber services. In Germany, for instance, fiber-optic connectivity speeds for homes and offices max out at 250 Mbps. If they want to enhance their bandwidth, they need to install multiple layers of WAN infrastructure. So, many customers now prefer to use a 5G solution for their upgrade as they need to ensure their network is futureproof at a reasonable price.
How do we apply this technology?
Taking a factory for example, our NR7101 5G NR Outdoor Router is a good choice as its IP68 protection enables it to withstand lightning, winds of up to 200 km/h, and temperatures from -40° to 60° C. It also has six built-in 10 dBi directional antennas to provide focused network coverage, avoiding interference even across long distances.
We’ve spent extra effort streamlining the installation and configuration process, too. This entire process is also far more cost-effective than fiber optics, as it doesn’t require an electrician. Moreover, our user-friendly Zyxel LTE Ally app lets you simply pinpoint the optimal deployment location based on signal strength.
Which regions have the most growth potential and why?
In EMEA, we see huge room for growth in the Nordic region, where we already have a big market share with 3G and 4G. According to research from Tutela, 4G continues to be the dominant wireless technology in the Nordics, accounting for over 90% of connection time for the vast majority of operators. The governments and ISPs there are the two major driving forces behind 5G adoption, especially as the governments are promoting cellular networks over fiber or copper wired infrastructure. Also in Nordic countries, a lot of families keep two houses – a summer one and a winter one. For them, it’s really nice to have a portable wireless solution they can use at both, like an LTE or 5G cellular network, instead of paying two contracts.
We’ve also observed the DACH region as another potential market with strong growth, as ISPs there are actively installing 5G antennas and providing related services. In Germany, for example, Deutsche Telekom is planning to offer 5G to all subscribers by the end of 2021, while Swiss ISPs are moving at an even quicker pace.
Zyxel has been among the first to launch 5G products. What does the company have in store to stay ahead of the competition?
We’re quite proud that our 5G product lines were some of the first on the market. With our existing 5G portfolio for indoor, outdoor, and mobile, we’re in pretty good shape to fulfil all of our customers’ demands.
In moving forward, we’ve found that cybersecurity is the No. 1 issue of concern to our customers. You require a sophisticated solution to fight against evolving cyberattacks and check whether your existing infrastructure’s protection is really doing its job. That’s one direction we’re moving in. Alongside that, the number of devices connected to the cloud is exploding, which is underlining the need for more unified and efficient network management. This is also a critical focus of ours as we develop new 5G solutions.