You may have noticed recently that operators and vendors have started to talk up "Factory 4.0" as a banner heading for another use for 5G.
This envisages using 5G as the bedrock for updating factory facilities across the globe, to support robotics, automation, artificial intelligence and more. In fact, when I say "bedrock," that even means using 5G wireless connectivity to get rid of the wiring in such facilities. (See Nokia Reveals Future X Network Project and Ericsson's CTO Talks Up 5G Opportunities.)
Factory 4.0 applications appear particularly suited to high-band millimeter wave 5G networks that can deliver massive data (1-Gbit/s and up) flows over a short range.
One key aspect of the 5G spec, however, that needs to be completed before many Factory 4.0 applications can be supported, is called Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), or guaranteed network latencies of a few milliseconds or less. This is due in the 3GPP Release 16 -- a.k.a. 5G NR Phase 2 -- due to be completed December 2019. This likely means the updated standard will get into commercial usage sometime in 2020 at the earliest.
URLLC will be necessary for applications such as precision robotics and automated delivery. It will also be necessary when people want to use thin client devices, which rely on millisecond connections to the cloud so that "dumb" devices can handle computing tasks. (See Could 5G Revitalize the Thin Client Market?)
Naturally, this also applies to the push towards automated vehicles.
So, it seems that the factory of the future could become much more of a money-maker for carriers and wireless vendors, but not quite yet!
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading