The Impact of 5G on Factory Automation


5G may still be in its infancy, but the industrial space is excited for the possibilities this technology may bring in terms of improvements in factory automation.

Barry Turner, Technical Business Development Manager at Red Lion Controls, walked Tyler Kern through the current state of 5G and the future advantages of factory automation as adoption progresses.

Today, many applications in the industrial sector utilize wireless communications. Thus far, though, the most expansive use cases require low bandwidths over a long communication path. 900 MHz frequencies are what these applications use. 5G allows for higher frequencies.

Higher frequencies mean more power, and more muscle equates to more data flow. But more power and data means less distance that data can travel before it dissipates.

Remote access is a way of life for most technical applications, and this requires access to more bandwidth.

“You need a way to be able to communicate with a system over a secure tunnel,” Turner said. “So, you’re going to need more bandwidth to make that happen. 900 MHz is going to make that very difficult. You need higher bandwidth for that, as well as pulling data out of these remote applications, too.”

Additional radio antennae need to be installed throughout a business’s telemetry system to account for the distance issues created by greater frequencies. “Instead of having one every couple of miles, now you’re talking about maybe four a mile,” Turner said.

Although 5G may require some additional infrastructure to gain the maximum benefits of its low-latency and high data speed capabilities, Turner said he believed it would eventually replace Wi-Fi in many instances. 

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