Raise your hand and give me five. Yes, the moment is near: 5G networks will soon be as essential and commonplace as giving a high-five to your closest buddy.
Meanwhile, digitalization is reshaping the landscape in the energy sector. The need for higher energy efficiency, enhanced process control, and a better user experience is driving adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which in turn require advanced networking technologies to ensure a seamless exchange of data.
Utility-related communications are among the most demanding of IoT applications, with millions of devices needing to be wirelessly connected with an extreme degree of security and reliability. The fifth generation of cellular technologies (5G) seems to be shaping the future of the energy sector.
Let’s find out how 5G differs from previous generations of mobile networks, what benefits it brings, and how to implement it for real-life use cases in the energy and utility sectors.
What is 5G?
The fifth generation of mobile networking technology, 5G works on the same principles as 4G. However, the new 5G NR (New Radio) air interface will have wider functionality than just mobile internet, providing a higher level of scalability and flexibility.
Broadly speaking, 5G can be defined in two ways. The first and more obvious is that 5G is the next generation of cellular technology following after 4G, with improved speed, lower latency, and the ability to connect more devices at once.
Comparison of key 4G and 5G parameters
Source: Qorvo – Getting to 5G: Comparing 4G and 5G System Requirements
The second definition describes 5G as a new kind of service that combines the basics of GSM, 4G, Wi-Fi, and other innovative networking technologies to provide always-on coverage the likes of which have never been seen. From this point of view, 5G is not a simple cellular technology; it’s a whole new vision created specifically to implement various IoT use cases and drive us closer to the smart city concept — not only to let you watch your favorite Netflix series much faster while on the bus.
5G and IoT use cases with deep mobile network deployment
Source: >Ericsson Mobility Report June 2019
For 5G and IoT use cases at the industrial scale, there are strict infrastructure requirements regarding connectivity and data transmission. Apart from the issue of how to increase bandwidth with 5G, early adopters are focusing on the following requirements for this new networking technology:
Source: Gemalto – Introducing 5G networks – Characteristics and use cases
Despite some differences in definitions, industry leaders agree that 5G will turn around the perception of mobile networks. For starters, 5G energy efficiency will cut costs, improve decision-making with data insights, and provide the ability to connect almost every device across vast distances, offering control over hard-to-reach facilities to prevent life-threatening events.
5G is more than just a generational step; it represents a fundamental transformation of the role that mobile technology plays in society. As demand for continuous connectivity grows, 5G is an opportunity to create an agile, purpose-built network tailored to the different needs of citizens and the economy.
Industries that win the most from 5G
Source: Ericsson Report – The 5G Business Potential: Second Edition
New services that 5G will bring to various industries
5G will bring three new types of connected services, as defined by the SMARTER (New Services and Markets Technology Enablers) project by Yi-Hsueh Tsai of the Institute for Information Industry. The goal of SMARTER was to develop real-life use cases for 5G functionality and specify requirements for these new networks. The project identified 70 use cases grouped into five categories, which were later narrowed to three.
- Enhanced mobile broadband – 5G will provide faster data rates up to multiple gigabits per second. This will improve the user experience with faster downloads and allow for 360-degree video streaming, enable VR/AR applications, and address critical issues related to smart meter security. With 5G, broadband access will be available in highly populated areas both indoors and outdoors, city centers, office buildings, stadiums, and conference halls, as well as in moving objects like cars, buses, trains, and planes. A recent survey by Statista shows that 48% of respondents believe they will never again log on to public Wi-Fi when 5G services are available.
- Mission-critical control – 5G will enable new services which require extreme reliability and low latency, such as remote control of critical infrastructure, uninterrupted data exchange between autonomous vehicles, and real-time availability of robotics systems. For example, operators will be able to send commands to faraway devices or utility meters to change their configurations or control their performance with end-to-end latency down to a millisecond.
- Massive Internet of Things networks – 5G is expected to interconnect a massive number of embedded sensors — up to 50,000 per carrier — thanks to the ability to scale down data rates and transmit data much faster through new protocols with lower power consumption. This will allow users to control, support, and monitor equipment with a high density of units in urban areas and remote locations.
Categorization of 5G use cases
Source: Qualcomm – Making 5G NR a reality
Benefits of 5G technology you should use for your next solution
With the ongoing digitalization of services, 5G networks will lead the way to new business opportunities and meet evolving customer needs. New use cases will arrive faster than ever. As network speeds increase, more and more tasks will be transitioned from the world of computers to the world of smart connected devices, opening new technological opportunities. A report from PSB Research states that 91% of respondents expect 5G to usher in new products and services never before seen.
Key 5G features and benefits
Source: NetworkWorld – 5G: A deep dive into fast, new wireless
Top 5G energy use cases you should keep an eye on
From the perspective of power supply, 5G will help distribute energy faster and more efficiently. Energy management companies will be able to collect data at up to 20 gigabits per second with latency rates near 1 millisecond. Coupled with advanced storage technology, this will allow energy suppliers to feed huge databases from smart sensors and know exactly when to distribute or redistribute power and in what exact amount, leading to a secure and stable power supply.
From the other end, 5G networks will need energy themselves, and other mission-critical systems will require their constant operation. This opens new cash flows for the energy sector as well. 5G and energy digitalization will generate new use cases within the energy industry, basically overlapping with IoT technology. Let’s give smart cities a chance. Here are some use cases of 5G in the energy and utilities sectors that show how 5G will lead to fierce competition between the main industry players.
Smart grid technology
Fifth-generation wireless technology will pave the way for new features and more efficient smart grids. New 5G mobile networks will help integrate previously unconnected devices to new smart grids for accurate monitoring and precise forecasting of their energy needs. Managing energy demand will be much easier and more efficient, requiring fewer investments, as the smart grid will balance the energy load, reduce electricity peaks, and ultimately cut energy costs. Large cities will be able to plan their energy infrastructure based on collected data, spending less and reducing downtime.
Let’s see what the new smart energy grid framework may look like.
Smart energy grid framework
Source: Smart Grid – A demanding use case for 5G technologies
At the lowest layer, we see energy supplying infrastructure. The next layer includes the telecommunications network with mini-cells and a satellite network. The upper layer is a 5G architecture that consists of VNFs (Virtual Network Functions), existing IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), smart energy VNFs, monitoring units, and a new applications layer with predictive maintenance and dispatchable demand response services. All layers are connected via open APIs, and this framework could be customized to the particular needs of an energy supplier.
Smart meters for private properties
Apart from industrial utilities, smart meters will enter our homes. This will allow private users to better understand which devices consume more energy and appropriately plan budgets. Smart meters are already in use in smart homes, and with 5G they will become widespread, while all measurements will be more accurate thanks to permanent and real-time data collection.
In-house deployment of smart meters
Source: ResearchGate – M2M Technology for 5G-Grade Home Automation
Remote equipment monitoring
Like connected smart utility meters, energy monitoring is nothing new. Still, with the introduction of 5G technology, energy suppliers will get more detailed data faster, with lower latency, and over farther distances. Let’s take a wind farm as an example.
Digital data management
5G mobile networks will increase the demand for comprehensive data management strategies and the reliability of corporate systems. Organizations will need not only to maintain databases with large volumes of data but to be capable of receiving and working with data at higher speeds with zero risk of downtime. As a result, 5G will push businesses to eliminate their legacy data asset management systems and move to hybrid cloud applications applying microservice architectures for flexible and continuous application delivery.
The revolutionary capabilities of 5G within a set of industries does not give a chance to step aside from considering its use cases in the energy sector. Energy managers, suppliers, and commercial property owners need to prepare for new 5G business opportunities. The energy management space is already oversaturated with data sources, and their number will only grow. New 5G networks will be capable of handling this data and keeping up with the industrial revolution 4.0.
If you have your own use case for 5G in the energy sector or are looking for a partner to explore new business opportunities with energy and utility solutions, contact our experts to get acquainted with Intellias expertise and services in the energy industry.