By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq
United Kingdom-based engineering firm Worcester Bosch has switched on a "smart" factory that runs with 5G. The trial is the first of its kind and is supported under the U.K. government's Worcestershire 5G Consortium.
“Going live with the U.K.’s first 5G factory trials marks a monumental step in delivering the vision of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed to bring a productivity increase to the manufacturing sector and the U.K. economy," said Mark Stansfeld, chair of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed and Trials, reported Forbes.
Factories of the future are envisioned to tap sensors that communicate via 5G to operate robots and automate most production. With its 5G factory going live now, Worcester Bosh said its Internet of Things (IoT) sensors will boost manufacturing capacity and conduct preventive maintenance on machines.
"It’s important to our business to have the real-time element 5G brings so that we can react in real time in the factory environment to mitigate any losses in output and protect and grow our business bottom line,” added Carl Arntzen, CEO of Worcester Bosch.
The U.K. aims to be a world leader in several 5G use cases, including industry automation, transport, and tourism applications, and British operators have enlisted several partners around the world to test these use cases.
China’s Huawei remains on this partners list despite the United States’ pressure on allies to block the company on security grounds. In December, British defense minister Gavin Williamson expressed "grave, very deep concerns about Huawei providing the 5G network in Britain." This week, however, the chief of Britain's foreign intelligence service said that Britain needs more time to make its decision.
"I think it is a more complicated issue than 'in or out'," MI6 chief Alex Younger told reporters in Munich, according to The Straits Times. "What I want is a proper conversation about this because it's not inherently desirable that any piece of significant national infrastructure is provided from a monopoly supplier."
UK service provider BT already has decided not to use Huawei equipment for its 5G network. The UK's communications agency GCHQ, meanwhile, has a task force dedicated to inspecting Huawei equipment.
Related, the mobile trade body GSMA, which represents 800 network operators, said a new security testing scheme — intended to check the safety of 5G equipment and reduce the need to ban suppliers — will only cause delays to 5G rollouts and raise costs, according to the BBC. The GSMA said governments should work with mobile operators to agree on a standardized testing scheme across Europe to "ensure confidence in network security."
Posing a challenge, however, is 5G's "openness” — more specifically, its reliance on "open infrastructure, in which open-source software, open, non-proprietary hardware, and multi-vendor collaboration combine to produce a programmable, software-defined infrastructure stack capable of delivering critical services," states an article in Diginomica. "The 5G network transition has catalyzed the aggressive use of open hardware and software by domestic carriers changing how domestic companies approach infrastructure development."
According to the article, AT&T and Verizon have led telcos around the world in using open source to build their 5G networks. Verizon is said to be substituting software for hardware via network function virtualization (NFV) by using OpenStack and other open-source projects. AT&T, on the other hand, is reportedly replacing proprietary hardware and replacing routers from the likes of Cisco with white box products built to its specification.
Related, AT&T is used its custom-built hardware/software to roll out an actual 5G network (not '5G Evolution') in twelve cities late last year (Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco). This week, the carrier added Chicago and Minneapolis to the list. Both cities should get AT&T’s 5G network sometime later in 2019, as will Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose, reported The Verge.
Korea Telecom is likewise using custom-fit solutions to help migrate from 4G to 5G. KT, with Oracle Communications, announced that it will be able to "launch and evolve custom-fit network slices faster than ever. Network slicing is a highly dynamic process that provides CSPs with the opportunity to tailor connectivity services to the precise requirements of any given application; user, device or context, by logically isolating virtualized network resources. This capability will enable CSPs to launch NaaS [Network-as-a-Service] solutions tailored to the specific needs of their enterprise customers that can range from AR and VR to Connected Cars, Smart Factories, and Smart Cities."
In regulatory news, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is facing growing opposition to its sweeping rule changes on 5G deployment, which have left local authorities feeling marginalized. To support 5G, telecom operators are starting to deploy small cells, a market expected to grow from $528 million in 2019 to $3.5 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets.
A growing number of states, cities, and municipalities have assailed FCC's moves that allegedly favor carriers. These actions include tighter deadlines and fee caps, as well as making poles and towers easily accesible and modifiable by operators, who have lauded FCC.
In an email to The Washington Times, Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, accused FCC of reinterpreting “federal law as part of its efforts to ‘nationalize’ city and other local public property in its quest to grant special and unlawful rights to private enterprises that seek to occupy local rights-of-ways and public property for small cell deployment.”
He added: “Instead of working with local governments to win the global race to 5G, the FCC is forcing cities to race to the courthouse to defend the most basic of local government rights — the authority to manage and seek fair compensation from private users that seek to employ public assets, owned and paid for by local taxpayers, for their personal profit without any obligation to serve all of the community whose assets are occupied.”
FCC also is facing calls from Google and cable companies to sell spectrum worth at least $15 billion to more bidders instead of allotting these bands to satellite companies, according to an article in The Information. Google and the cable companies reportedly fear that satellite firms later will sell spectrum they win at future auctions to one or few companies, which will then exert control over the communications industry.
More entertainment use cases are being showcased, with the latest being the world’s first 5G movie theater with live-streaming films. Venture Beat said that the European operator Telia is using the Odeon Cinema Center in Oslo, Norway, to live-stream 4K or higher-quality video fluidly at around one-fifth of 4G’s latency.
"We're starting the 5G development from a customer perspective, and explore use cases and service scenarios first, and develop the technology from that," said Abraham Foss, CEO of Telia Norway in a statement, reported ZDNet.
5G is starting to invade the fashion world, as well. British operator Three is having the first 5G mixed reality catwalk show during London Fashion Week. Three will use Rewind’s Magic Leap mixed reality technology to bring the designs of Gerrit Jacob to life in The Central Saint Martins MA Fashion show, during London Fashion Week, according to 5G.co.uk.