Private 5G can ‘reinvigorate’ onshore manufacturing

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

High-speed, ultra-low latency private 5G networks can help turnaround Australia’s manufacturing sector after years of decline, according to Verizon’s APAC regional vice president Robert Le Busque.

The private networks offer enterprises a way to securely connect devices, operational technology, ERPs and edge computing at high speed and ultra-low latency, but require ownership of spectrum among other upfront investments.

“There’s a lot of discussion about this technology, helping to reinvigorate smart manufacturing in Australia in particular, which has been in secular decline for many years,” Mr Le Busque told at Verizon’s 5G innovation lab in London.

The lab, one of six Verizon has stood up and the first outside the US, offers a space for researchers, customers and partners to collaborate on 5G, including cutting edge applications.

Research translation
More than half of Australian manufacturers looking to reshore

In the London lab a manufacturing device uses computer vision to scan individual items on a conveyor belt, automatically sending the items to the correct destination.

The device, connected to other operational technology, edge computing and enterprise systems via a private 5G network, can also detect defects based on an items shape, weight or temperature, potentially stopping costly mistakes before they leave a plant.

Elsewhere in the lab a demo shows private 5G networks being used to monitor hundreds of shipping containers aboard ships at sea. The system uses the network and onboard edge computing to provide the analytics, with only the necessary information being shared through a satellite connection back to shore.

These are the types of cutting edge use cases that could revitalise Australia’s manufacturing sector, Mr Le Busque said, but there is potential and growing interest in private 5G elsewhere in Australia, including logistics, ports and resources.

He acknowledged the upfront costs of setting up a private 5G network, including spectrum purchases, network equipment, and the cutting edge devices they enable, remain a barrier for some.

It is also still early days for private 5G in Australia, with Telstra and Erickson only claiming the first private 5G for enterprise network in January.

Mr Le Busque said he doesn’t think the technology is being held back, however. Rather, enterprise customers are doing their homework.

“I don’t think it’s so much being held back. I think it’s where we are in terms of timing, particularly when you think about capital investments, cycles,” Mr Le Busque said.

“If I bought network equipment, I’m depreciating that over the next seven years. If I’m going and asking the CFO for more money after having just spent a lot of money last year, chances are I’m probably going to have to wait a little while and then sort of work that into my strategy and plan.

“So it’s more about them at the moment understanding the technology and being able to plan forward.”

The author attended the Verizon 5G Lab in London as a guest of Verizon.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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