Recognizing that 5G requires the participation of a slew of industries outside wireless, 26 companies have come together in the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA).
The 5G-ACIA will serve as a central, global forum for addressing, discussing and evaluating relevant technical, regulatory and business aspects with respect to 5G for the industrial domain. It includes relevant stakeholder groups from the operational technology (OT) industry, the information and communication technology industry and academia.
The group pointed out that one of the main differences between 5G and previous generations of cellular networks lies in 5G’s focus on machine-type communication and the IoT, enabling numerous new use cases and applications in different vertical domains, including automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy and manufacturing sectors.
In manufacturing in particular, 5G may have a disruptive impact as things like wireless connectivity, edge computing and network slicing find their way into future smart factories.
"5G will become the central nervous system of the Factory of the Future and will have a disruptive impact on industrial production," said 5G-ACIA Chairman Andreas Müller of Bosch in a statement. "For the first time, the 5G-ACIA brings together all the major players worldwide. This enables us to work in a concerted and targeted manner to ensure that the interests of the industry are taken into account accordingly.”
Besides Bosch, current members include Beckhoff, Deutsche Telekom, German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Endress+Hauser, Ericsson, Festo, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Harting, Hirschmann Automation & Control, Huawei, Infineon, Institute for Industrial Information Technology, Institute for Automation and Communication, Intel, Mitsubishi, Nokia, NXP, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact, R3 - Reliable Realtime Radio Communications, Siemens, Trumpf, Vodafone, Weidmüller and Yokogawa.
There have been calls within the industry to get more sectors involved in the development of 5G.
According to a white paper the organization published, even though 5G is envisioned to support a range of use cases in manufacturing, 5G-related standardization bodies and the manufacturing industry are not yet fully aligned.
With 3GPP Release 15, the first phase of the 5G specification will be frozen in mid-2018. That release focuses mainly on enhanced mobile broadband services. Vertical services such as ultra-reliable low-latency communications will be enhanced in Release 16. Therefore, it’s essential that input from the industrial domain be obtained and considered from the beginning of the work on Release 16 in order to guide the 5G system design.
The paper notes that not all players in the OT industry will be able to participate directly in relevant standards bodies, so the existence of an organization outside the standards groups is essential.