Industrial companies have to improve the flexibility, adaptability, and efficiency of their business processes continuously. In today's business world, digital and automated workflows are an essential foundation for flexible production processes and for beating the international competition. Connecting production sites wirelessly by the expansion of special mobile networks, so-called Campus Networks, is a key to the digitalization of business. It makes it possible to deliver predictive maintenance of machines, or necessary changes in the production process can be made online, to name some examples.
What is a campus network?
5G technologies and the applications they enable will be used primarily in the industrial domain. They will enable automated, efficient production workflows – giving businesses a competitive advantage.
Campus networks are versatile in industrial sites of all sizes. 5G technology offers many of the required features such as extremely high bandwidth, short latencies and improved availability. But even today you can achieve a lot, based on existing 4G technology.
Campus networks are exclusive mobile networks for a defined local campus, a university or individual buildings, such as an office building. They are tailored to the individual needs of users and meet future requirements in the area of Industry 4.0.
How campus networks differ from public mobile networks
Together with OSRAM, Deutsche Telekom is testing a campus network for the first time in order to wirelessly connect machines in a real production environment. To accelerate the automated production and logistics processes, a separate private LTE network has been built on the factory campus alongside the publicly available LTE mobile network.
This approach enables OSRAM to use resources and network capacities independently of other users because the custom-built campus network is reserved for their exclusive use. As a result, they do not have to share resources like they would in a public network. This will guarantee specific features that are essential to modern business processes and innovative Industry 4.0 applications:
- Closed wireless network
- Strong data security
- Fast data transfer with low latency
- Availability of high bandwidths and defined data throughput
- High reliability – with low energy consumption
The campus network cannot be accessed from the public network. The two are still connected in the opposite direction, however, to enable companies to communicate with partners, external service providers, or suppliers. Experts call this combination of public and private networks a "dual slice solution".
Advantages of 5G technology in mobile networks
Many campus networks already exist and exchange their data via WLAN, which is sufficient for current applications. As the number of connected machines and applications at a company increases, more powerful mobile networks are required. To provide them, numerous hot spots have to be installed to support wireless data transfer. This isn't a problem for static processes that remain fixed in one location, for example, to monitor a machine.
WLAN alone isn't suitable for mobile scenarios, however, such as driverless transportation systems used in logistics. OSRAM and Deutsche Telekom are jointly testing the use of robots that move autonomously on the company premises – that is not under remote control. These autonomous vehicles require seamless radio cells. If WLAN were used, when these robots changed cells, they would have to stop and establish a connection with the new cell before they could continue.
This would impose an unthinkable limitation on automated business processes in Industry 4.0. WLAN will continue to play an important role for many industrial applications in the future. But LTE, and in the future 5G, will complement the WLAN networks for even better, above all reliable connectivity. Companies benefit from improved productivity and security. Campus Networks guarantee availability, provide high bandwidths for industrial IoT processes, enable super-fast response times and meet requirements for mobile applications.
Campus networks also open up many other possibilities: when extended with an edge cloud (a local data center) and the use of complex algorithms, data management and processing can take place directly on site. In the public LTE network these computing processes run on a back end, somewhere deep in the network architecture, which would cause latency in the production processes.