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5G is here - what does it mean for manufacturing?

Network operator EE has launched the UK’s first 5G service in Manchester and five other cities, and before too long it could usher in a new wave of Industry 4.0 practices in manufacturing.

5G was launched on 30 May in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, offering greater internet speeds, reliability and connectivity compared to 4G.

BT subsidiary EE will now be rolling out more than 100 new 5G sites per month, adding coverage in other major cities like Bristol, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull and Leeds.

It is still very early days for the technology, with the most exciting opportunities - such as massive sensor networks and real-time management of autonomous assets like driverless cars - not expected for several years.

However, in theory, 5G will eventually be able to support more than a million connected devices per square kilometre, compared to around 60,000 today with 4G. In time it could also reduce latency - the communication lag between connected devices - to around 1 millisecond, vastly improving the performance of machine-to-machine communications.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said:

“This is the start of the UK’s 5G journey. 5G will create new experiences with augmented reality, make our customers’ lives easier, and help launch entirely new businesses that we haven’t even imagined.”

Over the next few years, 5G connectivity could help to kickstart real progress in Industry 4.0 technology for manufacturers.

According to Raconteur, which has published a special report on 5G, this could manifest itself in five key ways:


  • Wireless’ factories where new assets are simply ‘plug-and-play’ rather than requiring complicated networks
  • Increased productivity due to real-time data from sensor-equipped devices, allowing operators to monitor processes by the millisecond
  • Real-time predictive maintenance that identifies failure risks much earlier
  • Tailored connectivity that matches speed, capacity and coverage to the specific needs of a company, keeping costs low
  • New business models engineered around flexible services, such as selling machinery on subscription or producing items in smaller batches.

Image credit: EE

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