A new market survey of enterprises from STL Partners and Spirent revealed that demand for private networks is being driven primarily by a need for network availability, hyper-reliability, and security.
This tracks with a perspective weabout the importance of testing and service level management to verticals like manufacturing, mining, and transport logistics, which increasingly depend on private networks to drive business outcomes. In fact, STL’s survey found enterprises are willing to pay a premium for service level agreements (SLAs).
Let’s explore the business use case this presents for ecosystem stakeholders, what it will take to capitalize on this opportunity, and two examples of manufacturing sector clients that have successfully achieved business value by leveraging private 5G networks.
In each of the case studies we’ll dive into, manufacturing processes required networks with low latency and jitter, and high reliability. Previous network solutions couldn’t deliver the consistency required to support advanced use cases. Both companies found that achieving business outcomes and return on investment (ROI) was directly tied to successfully managing network SLAs.
Detecting defects with ultra-high-definition video monitoring
One manufacturing company benefiting from private networks produces fine-grained component parts that require precision engineering, milling, and drilling. Bad-quality parts were causing faults that resulted in unplanned outages. To increase the production capability of the overall factory, the manufacturer wanted to proactively identify parts that did not meet quality requirements before they were put into production. This could increase equipment effectiveness and reduce unplanned downtime.
It was determined real-time video image capture and analysis could potentially identify poor-quality parts. But the company’s initial attempts to use video were unsuccessful because imagery-based measurements were not accurate enough. Compounding the problem, best-effort networks were unable to support the uplink bandwidth required for high-resolution video image analysis.
The manufacturer determined a private 5G network with the following networking SLAs could meet its needs:
Consistent and reliable uplink bandwidth >25Mbps to support 4K UHD video streaming with low to zero packet loss
Deterministic low latency between 20 to 25ms to provide the real-time information needed to take action on inferior parts
The implemented 5G private network’s SLAs were proven to provide:
Uplink throughput of ~34Mbps with +/- 5% tolerance
<0.06% packet loss
Consistent latency below 20ms
By meeting the private 5G network SLAs, the manufacturer was able to successfully identify poor-quality parts early in the production process. They achieved a 19% reduction in hours lost due to unplanned outages.
Reliable private networks for the win!
Remote expert support via augmented reality (AR)
Another manufacturer uses exceptionally complex, customized equipment that must be operated by highly skilled experts that are limited in number and high in demand. Calls for expert engineers to repair critical equipment were a daily or weekly occurrence, necessitating repeat time-consuming and expensive site visits. To increase manufacturing efficiency, the company needed to reduce site visits and speed issue resolution by remotely engaging with experts.
The company sought to equip local (non-expert) engineers with AR headsets connected to remote supplier experts. The AR headsets would access overlayed resources like specifications, videos, and support pathways to support faster, more cost-effective issue resolution. Machine downtime would also be minimized.
The company determined that best-effort networks were not capable of supporting AR. End-to-end latency was >30ms and fluctuated >90ms, resulting in an unacceptable user experience that was a non-starter in a high-risk engineering environment. Disconnects were also frequent (i.e., five to ten an hour), severely limiting the usefulness of the application and approach.
The manufacturer implemented a private 5G network to meet the following networking SLAs:
Deterministic low latency of 15 to 20ms to guarantee an acceptable user experience
Network availability of 99.9% to guarantee uninterrupted service
Consistent and reliable throughput >50Mbps with low to zero packet loss, allowing for image resolution between HD and Full HD
The 5G private network’s SLAs were proven to provide:
Consistent latency between 15 and 18ms
Throughput consistently >70Mbps
The private 5G network SLAs enabled the manufacturer to eliminate about 15% of expert engineer site visits per year. This resulted in a 2-3% productivity gain. Overall, the private 5G network reduced the cost of on-site expert engineer visits and improved the user experience.
Validating private 5G networks is essential to achieving business outcomes
Private 5G networks can deliver the performance needed to generate positive business outcomes for a range of manufacturing use cases. While public 5G networks can be used, absence of a dedicated, SLA-managed slice will result in performance that fluctuates under traffic loads and is unlikely to guarantee the levels of throughput and latency needed for success.
No matter the network or combination of networks used, scenarios that require guaranteed performance to achieve business outcomes must be actively tested (assured) continuously to ensure SLAs are being met, and quickly isolate and remediate issues when they do occur.