The introduction of the ultra-fast mobile communications standard and the expansion of an extensive network are still in their infancy. 5G Technology is not relevant for all sectors of the economy. For some industries, however, the technology offers huge growth potential. What are they and what is necessary to advance digitization in this area?
Things worth knowing about 5G
In order to understand which sectors 5G technology can be relevant for, it is essential to first get an overview of what the technology can do and what the current status of the expansion is.
What is 5G?
5G is the latest generation of cellular networks. It is thus the successor to LTE (Long Term Evolution) and UMTS networks – the latter have been switched off since this year . The technology has been available in Germany since autumn 2019 and has many advantages over its predecessors.
An important point here is speed. Data rates of up to 10 Gbit per second can be achieved with a 5G network. For comparison: With LTE, only a data rate of 300 Mbit per second was possible. So 5G networks are more than 30 times faster than their predecessor.
The network also enables real-time transmission and has extremely low latency times. The technology is of great help in advancing the industry, since the high speed means that devices and machines can be networked on a large scale.
This allows the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) to be advanced, which is of great importance for the industry of the future. This technique allows automation to progress, which brings great benefits in some industries. However, the 5G network was not only designed for industrial use, but also for use by private individuals.
Current status of 5G
In a study from 2018, Germany took last place in Europe for coverage with the LTE network, i.e. the predecessor of 5G . But how is the supply with the 5G network currently and what developments can be identified?
There are currently three companies that offer this network in Germany. These are:
• O2/Telephonica and
The providers are trying to expand the network more and more. Vodafone and Telekom in particular are pushing ahead and are always reporting new successes. Telefonica is a little more reserved in comparison. Overall, grid expansion is making increasing progress, especially in 2021.
Significant improvements can be seen, especially in comparison to the speed at which LTE is being rolled out. However, there are countries where the Internet is spreading much faster. These include South Korea and the USA in particular.
Reports from the summer of 2021 confirm that Northeast Asia, North America and also the Gulf States can gain a significant lead over Western Europe. Corresponding forecasts assume that in 2026 in Western Europe 69 percent of all mobile phone contracts will include 5G technology, but in North America 84 percent.
Time will tell whether these circumstances will materialise. However, it is becoming clear that Western Europe has some catching up to do in the expansion of 5G networks compared to other regions of the world. In Germany, the first necessary steps were taken in 2021 to noticeably increase the pace of expansion.
However, the industry has an advantage over the general public. Since 2019, companies have had the opportunity to apply to the Federal Network Agency for their own 5G networks, the technology of which is provided by mobile phone providers.
Such campus networks act completely independently of the public space. This makes it clear that politicians have recognized the importance of 5G technology for the economy and are trying to create the necessary conditions as quickly as possible.
5G and the topic of security
In recent years, the topic of cyber security has become increasingly important. It is particularly important for companies to be able to guarantee this. More and more cybercriminals are specializing in blackmailing companies with the help of ransomware , among other things. In this context, company data is encrypted and only released again when the company pays a ransom. In the worst case, this encryption can paralyze the entire business and result in major monetary losses for the company concerned.
Alternatively, data is stolen, and the blackmailers then threaten to publish the sensitive information. The REvil group is particularly well known in this area.
This had blackmailed a large number of companies and made high ransom demands, which helped her to attract a lot of international media attention. The group was recently broken up . However, this does not mean that the business model will no longer be used by other extortionists in the future.
When using 5G technology, precautions should be taken from the start to avoid and ward off such attacks. Especially since the technology is relatively new, a particularly high level of attention is important.
Basically, it is helpful to note a number of points that can be used to ensure cyber security. This includes, among other things, always making sure to find possible weak points.
In addition, a secure router should be used. It is also advisable to allow as few people as possible to access data – i.e. only those who absolutely need the information. Finally, a data backup makes sense.
The area of traffic
Transport is of great importance in the economy. On the one hand, the US automotive industry is a sector that generates large sales and also performs well in international comparison. Every year, US car manufacturers export several million cars produced in USA.
In addition, good transport networks are an important part of a country’s infrastructure, which can make many things easier for citizens and companies. 5G plays a role in both areas and can bring some advantages. IT experts even assume that the automotive industry will be the industry that will be most affected by the new technology .
5G and automobile production
First of all, 5G plays an important role in the production of cars. 5G is an aid on the road to a smart car manufacturing factory, bringing benefits in various fields.
There are already some examples and pilot projects for this. Real-time transmission allows humans and robots to interact with each other without jeopardizing employee safety. Since 2018, there has been a cooperation between Audi and Ericsson, within the framework of which corresponding options are being tested with regard to this aspect, among other things.
For example, the protection of employees is tested by special sensors that enable a robot to stop the work process immediately as soon as an employee gets too close to the process and could be endangered. Incidentally, 5G technology can also provide appropriate help for employee safety in other sectors of industry.
In 2021, Volkswagen also launched a pilot project to use 5G in production. Appropriate options are being tested and developed primarily in the main plant in Wolfsburg, but also in Dresden.
The company sees opportunities, among other things, in the use of intelligent robots in production and in real-time control of production machines. Driverless transport systems are also to be tried out. The automobile manufacturer receives the corresponding network technology for this from Nokia.
5G in transportation
5G technology is also helpful for a future trend in traffic: autonomous driving . For safety and smooth transport, a car must ideally be fed with information from the outside.
This is especially true when unforeseen events such as an accident happen on the road. Real-time transmission, which a 5G network allows, is essential for secure implementation. In order for autonomous driving to be suitable for the masses at a certain point, the 5G networks must be expanded as a logical consequence.
In addition, 5G technology enables communication with other road users or vehicles and the traffic infrastructure. In this way, a warning can be given in the event of sudden obstacles.
Even if the vehicle is controlled by human hands, it can react accordingly. With 5G technology, a vehicle can communicate in real time with traffic lights, other vehicles, signs and barriers, among other things.
Of course, these must also be technically equipped accordingly. The smart applications in road traffic not only increase safety, but also relax traffic.
This is possible, for example, when traffic lights can be immediately adapted to the traffic through communication with all participants. In large cities in particular, this can result in fewer traffic jams and traffic flows faster and more smoothly.
This means greater comfort for road users. The economy can also benefit if shipments reach their destination faster. In order for these possibilities to become a reality in everyday life on German roads, however, the public 5G networks must be extensively expanded in a similar way to autonomous driving.
5G for industry
Manufacturing in industry can benefit from 5G technology in similar ways as the automotive industry. Above all, the networks provide an important and stable basis for the implementation of Industry 4.0.
This involves connecting devices to each other, which in turn can bring some benefits in a variety of ways that help a business increase revenue and operate more efficiently.
For example, production steps can be better coordinated. This applies both within a company and between several companies that are involved in the production of a particular item.
Industry 4.0 solutions also ensure that the production machines are always optimally utilized. This type of forward-looking production enables smoother and, if necessary, faster processes as well as greater efficiency. Production is also becoming more flexible and can be adapted more quickly and easily to customer requirements and market conditions.
Furthermore, the 5G networks can result in advantages for the maintenance of the systems. In the optimal implementation of these goals, the real-time transmission of 5G technology is of great value. In other words, an automated industry cannot be implemented effectively without the short latency times of the 5G networks.
5G in the energy industry
5G can also play a major role in the energy industry and bring many advantages.
5G for the success of the energy transition
This applies above all to the implementation of the energy transition. According to experts, this is not possible in a targeted form without 5G networks. Good networking and the use of intelligent technology are essential, especially if sustainable electricity is to be used as efficiently as possible. The aim is to sensibly coordinate various factors with one another. These are:
• generation of electricity,
• storage of energy and
• use of electricity
The fact applies here that better networking also enables the supply of more green energy. 5G will also become more important in the energy industry in the future, since the production of electricity will be more decentralized as part of the energy transition.
In addition, possible faults can be rectified more quickly with the help of 5G technology. Especially in a widely ramified network, such a possibility for the quick correction of errors and defects is indispensable in order to avoid longer failures.
Current projects on 5G and the energy industry
The need to use 5G technology in the energy industry has already been recognized. A joint project involving several universities and companies from the private sector has existed for some time. The following are involved, among others:
• the TU Dresden,
• the RWTH Aachen,
• Telekom and
The project is called “National 5G Energy Hub” and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. It aims to research and develop various options for using 5G in building energy technology.
Research is not only being carried out in Germany. In Finland there is also a project that deals with the topic. As part of the WIVE project, Nokia, ABB and other companies are working on producing appropriate applications. The last phase should be completed in 2028.
Healthcare and 5G technology
In healthcare, too, 5G can bring a number of benefits. This affects various areas, including the following:
• costs and occupancy, and
• the efficiency and quality of treatments.
Fast transmission of important data to the doctor
On the one hand, the short latency periods make it possible to identify health problems at an early stage and prevent illnesses and other incidents. This is achieved by transmitting patient data, such as blood pressure, in real time to a doctor or a corresponding system for analysis using mobile devices to which a patient is connected. The doctor can recognize a potential danger in good time and intervene.
On the other hand, costs can be saved with the same technology, since fewer doctor visits are necessary and hospital visits are shorter – the necessary monitoring of the patient can take place while he is in his home.
The same applies to incidents in which an ambulance is called. Thanks to real-time transmission, the doctors treating the patient in a hospital that the vehicle is heading to are informed extensively about the patient’s condition as soon as the patient arrives. This allows them to act faster and more efficiently. In severe cases, this time saving can even save a life.
More efficient and higher quality treatments
Another option for digitization in healthcare is the use of robots supported by 5G technology. This possibility is given, for example, in the field of nursing.
Corresponding devices could be maintained automatically by people in need. This would help to counteract the problem of the care shortage in an increasingly aging population.
There is also the option of using 5G technology to carry out operations from a great distance. A doctor assists either via video link or with the help of virtual reality applications.
This ensures that patients can be treated by the best medical professionals in the relevant field anywhere in the world, provided the fast network is available. This increases the quality of care and saves on the costs and effort of transport, which in some cases would mean covering a distance of several thousand kilometers.
The use of 5G in agriculture
In agriculture, 5G can also advance development towards the future. Many farmers are already using various smart technologies as part of smart farming.
Among other things, 5G can help to monitor fields with drones and thus enable efficient fertilization and irrigation. The exact condition of the plants and their current needs can be observed with special recordings by the drones.
In this way, targeted and sensible care and rearing can be guaranteed. In addition, weeds can be precisely detected and then removed – another important aspect to ensure a bountiful harvest.
Incidentally, a parasite infestation can be detected at an early stage in fish farming. This works with the help of high-resolution underwater cameras and corresponding real-time observation, whereby the low latency of the 5G network is also a help.
By using the combination of 5G and artificial intelligence, several important aspects can be improved at the same time. Resources such as water or fertilizers are saved, which is beneficial to an important goal of agriculture: the most sustainable management possible to protect the environment and slow down climate change.
At the same time, this saving lowers the costs, which benefits the profitability of the companies. Ultimately, the quality of the end products increases due to the precise and detailed treatment.
Many industries can benefit from 5G technology. These include the automotive sector, the transport sector, industry and the energy sector. The fast network also brings advantages in the healthcare system and in agriculture. In some sectors, further technical developments must take place for implementation. In addition, it is essential that the expansion of the 5G networks for use in various areas of the economy progresses as quickly as possible.