5G may add billions to UK manufacturing sector

(Image credit: Christoph Scholz/Flickr)

A new report commissioned by Vodafone has claimed 5G technology could add £6.4 billion to the value of the UK manufacturing industry and support the government’s regional development ambitions.

Although 5G networks will allow operators to offer enhanced communications to consumers and reduce operating costs, the real value is believed to be in enterprise services. The market is currently served by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other LPWAN standards, but 5G promises to address many shortcomings.

Unlike previous generations of mobile connectivity, the ultrafast speeds, superior capacity and ultra-low latency of 5G means mission-critical applications can be powered by cellular technology for the first time. 5G will improve reliability, availability and reduce delays.

5G manufacturing

Some deployments will use commercially available networks, but private 5G allows the customer to define the specifications of the 5G network and affords a greater degree of control. Private 5G networks can be built with or without the help of a mobile operator.

Vodafone’s study said private 5G networks would be allow huge numbers of devices to connect and share data simultaneously, enabling Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications. This will allow businesses will be able to make faster and better decisions and automate processes.

5G will also allow for predictive maintenance that avoids expensive downtime and facilitate the use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) applications that can aid maintenance efforts, and allow engineers to work remotely through immersive experiences. It will also be possible to visualise and plan designs before creating a physical prototype.

The report says the economic benefits that these outcomes will generate can be spread across the country, including the North West, North East, Midlands and Wales. The authors call for ambitious government targets, support for manufacturers wanting to invest in private 5G, and the creation of testing centres in the regions that stand to benefit the most.

Naturally, Vodafone would also benefit greatly from awareness and adoption of business 5G applications. It is investing heavily in its 5G Standalone (5G SA) and IoT capabilities, including Multi-Edge Access Computing (MEC) to support business customers in this shift.

“We are only beginning of the 5G journey, but through our work with Ford, we know it offers huge potential for the manufacturing sector and beyond,” said Anne Sheehan, Business Director. “To realise this potential, we need to all get behind it, from Government and Ofcom creating the right policy and regulatory environment, through to businesses embracing the power of innovation, and of course us as network operators creating this network of the future.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.