A private 5G journey begins for Industry 4.0

Taken from article by Sharon Rozov, Marketing CTO, RAD

Currently, industrial digitalisation is focused on increasing productivity, introducing energy and cost savings and ensuring employee safety through the use of hyper-automation.

The use of data-driven tools for decision-making, control, and predictive maintenance will revolutionise operations, while immersive experiences will enhance knowledge management and enable remote operations.


5G is essential for industrial digitalisation

There’s no way these tools can work without reliable and continuous connectivity to a consolidated data repository, where AI tools can correlate multiple data sources, and unified policies and controls can be managed.

In industrial digitalisation, private 5G is crucial: it’s a large scale, low latency campus network that connects fixed and mobile endpoints to their controllers and data analysers in the cloud, providing outdoor and indoor coverage.

Regardless of the industry, the decision to adopt private 5G is strategic, taking into account its many benefits and also focusing on a few first use cases that trigger the 5G journey. There will be a gradual transition to 5G for other campus services, connecting all residents and guests to the campus cloud. A private 5G network will be a converged OT/IT network.
Multiple access technologies will be used to connect the 5G core and the campus cloud in this endgame private 5G network. It’s actually going to happen on industrial campuses before it does on mobile carriers.

In private 5G campuses, while all endpoints will eventually be connected to the 5G core network, many won’t be 5G-enabled in the short or long term.

Wireline/wireless devices are currently connected with IoT gateways, over 5G access to the 5G core. As soon as wireline/wireless access to the 5G core is available, these endpoints will be connected.

In the future, other endpoints will be upgraded to support 5G access; however, timing plans should keep in mind that 5G modems currently support only basic 5G functionality and will eventually be replaced with new modems to accommodate advanced 5G functionality. As 5G-enabled aggregators, IoT gateways make a more future-proof solution, since they allow a smaller number of network elements to be upgraded.


What about industrial control protocols?

There are a lot of control protocols used in industrial machinery, including IP- and Ethernet-based protocols. No matter what transport type they use, all protocols need to be sent over the private 5G network to the campus cloud controllers.5G networks may eventually support Ethernet natively, based on 3GPP standards, but it’s still a long way from production.

Lastly, security. As with IoT sensors, industrial machinery that is typically deployed stand-alone and offline is susceptible to security breaches. All campus services and resources are at risk when malicious software penetrates these endpoints.

In complex industrial campuses, private 5G harmonises services by becoming a converged IT/OT network. IoT gateways play a crucial role in this environment, as they aggregate traffic from many devices of different types, allowing connectivity of wireline-enabled machinery and wireline/wireless brownfield sensors (SCADA / LoRaWAN sensors) to the private 5G network.

To enable a wide range of industrial control protocols over private 5G networks, they must support IP forwarding and Ethernet tunnelling. Additionally, IoT gateways will play a significant role in network access control by preventing unnecessary lateral movement between IoT devices and mitigating the impact of cyber-attacks originating from IoT devices.

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