Analysts with ABI Research are predicting widespread adoption of 5G technology within the manufacturing industry in a new report titled, 5G For Industrial Applications. According to their research, by 2028, manufacturing will represent almost 25% of the total generated revenue in the 5G ultra low latency use cases market.

The introduction and expansion of smart factories — which now include Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors, edge computing, self-healing networks and automation — has hastened the need for better connectivity. It is very difficult for systems to capture and sort all of the data coming from these devices without the kind of stable, fast connection 5G provides.

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

In a blog post, research analyst Leo Gergs explained some of the steps both sides should take before trying to sell or incorporate 5G technology. For companies looking to expand 5G adoption, Gergs said large manufacturers like Beckhoff Automation, Balluff, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, or Ingersoll-Rand or Rockwell Automation were the best options because they are more likely to have specific use cases where 5G could be applied.

“The capacity to establish a massive wireless sensor network or implement AR/VR applications for predictive monitoring makes 5G’s wireless connectivity capabilities a perfect technological fit for growth in manufacturing. Therefore, it is critical for all parties involved to understand how to optimize 5G for their business strategies,” Gergs wrote, adding that cost was a major roadblock to 5G expansion right now.

“To lower entry barriers for 5G deployment and attract potential implementers, network operators need to move away from business models purely relying on selling connectivity,” he continued.”To give manufacturers a flavor of 5G on the factory floor, they should develop more creative business and spectrum licensing models and use these as a foundation to start developing attractive pricing models for additional network capabilities (such as network slicing, a particularly high bandwidth, or particularly low latency). Mobile operators should acknowledge that a sustainable business may be several years away in the industrial manufacturing segment.”

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Large companies are better set up to devote the kind of time and money needed to successfully implement systems running on 5G, according to the report. The companies Gergs mentioned in his blog post are more likely to be in a position to invest in 5G but may be hesitant to deploy their own private network, forcing them to turn to mobile network operators.

Best practices for manufacturers and vendors

The report lists a number of best practices for operators, especially appealing to manufacturers, urging these companies to focus their efforts on what their customers are specifically looking for rather than offering wide varieties of options.

“Before deploying 5G on the factory floor, manufacturers need to have a solid automation strategy, as well as clearly conceivable and realistic use cases,” he said. “Manufacturers should currently consider private cellular 4G as a best-of-breed connectivity technology, and 5G as a foundation to create more advanced use cases on-premises.”

In addition, Gergs offered advice to infrastructure vendors. “Infrastructure vendors have to hide technology and implementation complexity, especially when considering private networks using shared spectrum. These barriers are the most challenging for industrial manufacturers and are a threat to the adoption of cellular networks in enterprise verticals. Infrastructure vendors must make manufacturing priorities their own and must create an ecosystem to address all implementer requirements, from devices to support services,” he said.

Making 5G work in industrial manufacturing

Knowledge of what 5G is and how it works is spreading, but it is still in a nascent stage, requiring companies to offer what ABI called “packaged solutions” that were customizable but made the decision-making process for manufacturers a bit easier. Operators could also offer companies revenue sharing agreements as a way to coax them into testing out 5G use cases.

One of the key decisions manufacturers need to make when deciding on 5G adoption is whether their data and information has to stay on site. This will greatly affect a manufacturer’s options and cost in terms of whether public networks could be deployed or not.

Mobile network operators should coordinate with industry groups and associations in countries across the world while getting their message out to user gatherings and industry fairs.

“Despite the higher potential for revenue for enterprise 5G connectivity than in the consumer market, manufacturers, network operators and vendors are mindful of how to target these opportunities. The manufacturing vertical is more fragmented than the consumer market, which will force operators and vendors toward more customizable 5G solutions, rather than a one-size-fits-all model,” Gergs added.

“Furthermore, addressing enterprise verticals will fundamentally change the shape of the 5G value chain, requiring a change in behavior from all relevant actors. Making 5G work in industrial manufacturing, therefore, needs significant effort from mobile network operators, infrastructure vendors, and potential implementers from the manufacturing domain. Tighter collaboration between all parties will be necessary to address industrial manufacturing connectivity needs.”

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