5G Campus Networks - Private Cellular Networks for the Smart Factory

03/30/2022 Know-How

Digitalization as a buzzword may not be new anymore, but in reality, digitalization as a real phenomenon is starting to pick up pace. It forces businesses to develop continuously to remain relevant in the market. 5G campus networks help them to be more agile, more efficient, and more digital.

5G campus networks are local, geographically limited 5G networks that are inaccessible to the general public. They are of particular interest for industrial use, as 5G technology offers precisely the features needed for networked production—high reliability, large range, low latency, and high bandwidth alongside energy efficiency. These features require higher frequency ranges, however. Instead of the 2.2GHz used for previous cellular standards, 5G campus networks depend on frequencies between 3.7 and 3.8GHz. With 5G, we refer to band n78.


What makes 5G campus networks so special?

5G technology enables wireless real-time communication between humans, machines, sensors, and other end devices. The 5G network beats its 4G predecessor with enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC).

Latency values with URLLC drop from around 15 to 80 milliseconds under 4G to less than 1 millisecond. This enables machinery, robots, and autonomous transport systems to be controlled without any perceptible lag.

With eMBB, data transfer speeds can reach up to 10Gbit/s with 5G—with a capacity of 10Tbit/s per km². By way of comparison, 4G technology reached its limit at 1Gbit/s. This makes 5G around ten times as fast as 4G. Videos can be transmitted live in very high resolution. In these times of the coronavirus pandemic, this allows overseas developers to view even the smallest details and give their comments on them.

Of particular interest is the immense connection density enabled by mMTC of up to one million end devices per km², all while minimizing energy consumption, which is just around 10% of the consumption of LTE systems, while the connection density of 4G is barely around 200 end devices per km². mMTC is of particular benefit for applications in large warehouses, car park management systems, and major events in sold-out stadiums.

Not only that, but thanks to the smart “network slicing” technology, it is possible for several virtual networks to operate concurrently on the same physical network infrastructure. This allows data for every application type (eMBB, mMTC, and URLLC) to be transmitted over its own virtual cellular network, which in turn can be individually optimized for each application. Campus networks also beat public networks in terms of reliability and availability, as their operation is not dependent on a cell provider.


What can 5G do better than Wi-Fi 6?

Campus networks are in and of themselves nothing new. But right now, most of them are based on Wi-Fi technology. Wi-Fi 6, also known as Wi-Fi AX, is the latest generation of Wi-Fi, and was announced almost at the same time as 5G technology. Like 5G, it brings numerous improvements to the table, among them more bandwidth per data stream, lower latency, and higher data rates of up to 6 Gbit/s. This is enabled by new modulation methods such as OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access) and 1024-QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation). Because Wi-Fi 6 is backwards compatible, user hardware does not need to be replaced—a major advantage for private networks in office buildings in particular.

As the number of networked machines, systems, as well as mobile applications such as robots and autonomous transport systems rises, so, too, do the needs placed upon the private network. Many industrial and production installations also need a campus network that covers not only indoor spaces but also outdoor areas, because, for example, transport systems cover the entire area of a production facility. Due to the low frequency between 3.7 and 3.8GHz (compared with 5GHz for Wi-Fi), 5G covers a greater range while still offering comparable data transfer rates to Wi-Fi. With Wi-Fi and even Wi-Fi roaming, it was possible that an autonomous transport system would have to stop for a moment when changing cells, and could only start moving again when there was a connection with the new cell or gateway. This is especially the case with any mobile application dependent on a continuous data stream. Under 5G, the cell has a larger range, latency times are lower, and the transition between cells is seamless. So when it comes to mobile systems and applications used in automation for industrial systems and production facilities, 5G has the advantage.


How can businesses get a 5G campus network?

Businesses in Germany can obtain licenses for 5G frequencies by submitting an application to the Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway. The Federal Network Agency has approved a 100MHz band in a frequency range of 3.7 to 3.8GHz for local networks for this purpose. Frequency blocks can be awarded for one or multiple properties.

The fee for the license is calculated based on the requested bandwidth (B) in MHz (which must be specified as an increment of 10 between 10 and 100MHz), the license term in years (t), and the area to be covered by the cell network in square kilometers. The area to be covered can be categorized as “built environment and transport” (a1) or “other” (a2). Industrial and commercial areas are categorized as a1. The formula applied for the calculation is:

Fee in € = 1.000 + B x t x 5 x (6 x a1 + a2)

For a production facility with an effective area of 0.2km², a contract term of ten years and a full bandwidth of 100MHz, the license fee is € 6,000—equivalent to an annual fee of € 600.


Which hardware is required?

The necessary hardware, ranging from 5G cards and modems to antennas, servers, and power supply units, is available from Rutronik. One example is the FN980-5G-M.2 card from Telit, one of the first 5G products available on the market. It supports the LTE and 5G sub-6GHz bands used worldwide (i.e. also the n78 band, covering 3.3 to 3.8GHz), which is needed to establish a campus network in Europe. With a form factor of 30mm × 50mm and a temperature range of –40 to +85°C, the 5G-M.2 card is ideal for industrial applications. It is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G chipset. The FN980 is shipped with proprietary Telit software and can be configured using AT commands. The FN980m model also supports the new mmWave frequency bands.

Advantech is now also offering a 5G-M.2 card in the form of the AIW-355DQ family—like Telit’s solution, it, too, is based on the Snapdragon X55 5G chipset. Unlike Telit, however, Advantech is gearing towards regionally specific versions for Europe, North America, and Japan with the AIW-355DQ range. It measures 52mm × 30mm, and the temperature range of –10 to +55°C is not quite as expansive as the Telit card.

Both 5G-M.2 cards—from Telit and from Advantech—offer multiple 5G and GNSS antenna sockets. Rutronik offers suitable antennas from the manufacturers 2J, AVX, and Pulse.

One of the portfolio highlights is the 2JW1683 Katana from 2J. As one of the smallest 5G monopole antennas, it supports sub-6GHz frequency bands for a campus network and is also backwards compatible with its support for 4G, 3G, and 2G bands. Thanks to the articulated plug, antenna positions of 45° to 90° angles are possible. With an ultra-compact size of just 10mm × 80mm, it makes very small devices possible and can still transmit through buildings and heavily built-up, urban areas—making it perfect for covering production facilities.

When it comes to 5G polymer adhesive antennas, the manufacturer 2J offers the 2F0283P, 2JF0383P, 2JF0483P, and 2JF0583P versions—the difference between these is solely in the size of the ground plate. They optimize signal strength and signal quality in the entire sub-6GHz range using an omnidirectional transmission pattern. They support not only 5G but also legacy 4G, 3G, and 2G frequency bands.

Suitable cables and connectors in all lengths and colors are available from Rutronik’s wireless team, and technical support is provided by the large team of field application engineers and product specialists.


Find components at www.rutronik24.com.

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5G campus networks are not publicly accessible, which means that they provide a high level of data security.