MWC 2021: Stand-alone 5G Reduces Latency for Industry 4.0 Ecosystems

At the Mobile World Congress, Orange demonstrates the maturity of network slicing for enterprise applications with a concrete end-to-end use case.

“What we have shown today is that this technology is mature enough to consider commercial deployment as early as 2022.”

The small robot moves around the demo area easily, controlled remotely via the 5G SA (StandAlone) network. Suddenly, its gestures become slower, its interaction deteriorates and there is a bigger delay between the order and the action: latency is at play. For demonstration purposes, data traffic was artificially increased on the network, creating congestion. Nonetheless, measuring constants (delay, latency) detects a degradation in service quality and triggers the alarm on the Assurance platform that informs the Orchestrator. In a few dozen seconds, it creates a dedicated portion of the network: a new slice. Now that it has its own network, the robot no longer suffers the effects of congestion and returns to optimum performance.

Latency: A Critical Business Issue

Philippe Hémon, multi-service network access control team leader at Orange Innovation Networks, explains: “We often cite unrivaled throughput as the advantage of 5G, but that’s not everything. Latency—the speed of interaction between a robot and the platform controlling it, for example—is a real technological challenge for Industry 4.0 ecosystems. It is even critical for some sectors, such as connected cars.” On-demand generation of application networks is a solution that is now available to these companies, thanks to next-generation 5G technology called StandAlone. Radio software, the network core: everything runs in a virtualized network.

More than 5G

Aside from the frequencies, cloud and edge computing capabilities make it possible to create new slices in real time. Until now, it took between 10 and 15 minutes to create a virtual network. Split into a multitude of small software packages, the native cloud applications are smaller, and therefore faster to deploy on the network. These software packages can be distributed geographically, for optimal positioning in the carrier’s infrastructures, or even as close as possible to the company. They can be activated or deactivated in a few dozen seconds, automatically and without human intervention. This performance gain, combined with network customization, fits in particularly well with the expectations of many professional sectors. However, many software instantiations across many sites means that network management becomes more complex. Automation is therefore essential for analyzing performance, identifying problems and taking the necessary actions.

Bringing Technology out of the Lab

The demo at the MWC, in collaboration with several industrial partners, including HPE and Casa Systems, illustrates this combination of 5G, cloud computing and automation. “This demonstration involves a simple remote-controlled robot, but we have to imagine all the uses that will soon become a reality on production lines. What we have shown today is that all the technological building blocks are available, allowing the industries to prepare for their future uses.”

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