4 real-world 5G use cases for 2021

Photo: 5G technologies for 2021

Now that improved network virtualization, service automation and disaggregation has made 5G not just possible but profitable, 5G use cases are becoming less pie-in-the-sky and more valuable to the bottom line. As a result, sectors outside of the traditional 5G early adopters can see that 5G has moved past the hype and become an investment worth making. The following four sectors are just some of the new 5G use cases coming to market – starting with one of the world’s most vital industries.


Agriculture / John Deere tractors and production facilities, USA

It’s what keeps us alive, so it’s no surprise that many of the most important advancements in history have focused on agriculture – and farming is a vital use case for 5G technology too, as tractor manufacturer John Deere is showcasing.

In November 2020, the firm spent over half a million dollars on 5G licences in November 2020, with the aim of incorporating private 5G networks in some of its manufacturing facilities in Iowa and Illinois. According to the company, this will replace an existing system built on Ethernet cables and Wi-Fi drop points in ceilings, as well as improving asset tracking, production automation, inventory management and more.

“Implementing 5G in our manufacturing facilities allows John Deere to make significant progress in our Smart Industrial strategy by turning factories into smart and connected manufacturing facilities – a critical piece of the industrial IoT,” said the firm’s CTO Jahmy Hindman.

It’s not just on the factory floor where 5G can help agriculture – improved connectivity can improve productivity in the fields as well. Speaking to Lightreading, John Deere spokespeople discussed the firm’s 5G aspirations within the machinery itself, which will allow smarter planting, more efficient use of farmers’ time, and improved data collection, transmission and storage to a cloud-based proprietary operations centre. According to the article, while many John Deere tractors are already equipped with LTE modems to send operational information, the patchy broadband coverage of rural America means that the information must be stored onboard until there’s connectivity – an issue widespread 5G coverage will solve.


Aviation / mmWave 5G at Seoul and Tampa Airports

With data-heavy aviation and ground operations, regular flight status updates, and hundreds of thousands of passengers making video calls and preparing content downloads, airports are an ideal use case for next-generation connectivity – particularly millimetre-wave 5G. While its performance over longer distance can be questionable, mmWave’s high speed across densely populated smaller areas has resulted in several deployments recently in airports around the world, including Tampa in Florida provided by AT&T and at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, provided by SK Telecom. The Tampa development, which uses 39 gHz spectrum, is part of a wide rollout across Florida, while SK Telecom has installed mmWave 5G base stations at the airport as part of an MEC strategy to minimise latency. As reported in the Korea Times, the primary use case at Incheon is to enhance the fight against Covid-19 – using the improved capacity offered by mmWave 5G to scan all arrival video footage for passengers with signs of Covid (such as high temperature) or those without a mask.


Underground rail network / Seoul Metro, South Korea

Aside from its airports, South Korea’s 5G progress is a success story for the industry. As of this January, over 20% of the population – 11 million people, up from 6 million in July 2020 – now subscribe to 5G services, and even though recent performance issues have led to 560,000 people actually switching back to LTE, there is widespread buy-in for the technology on both the consumer and industrial side.

As well as government funding, one reason South Korea has been able to make such progress is cooperation between operators, and the 5G rollout on the Seoul Metro is a good example of this. The country’s three leading network operators – SK Telecom, LG Uplus and KT – joined forces to add 5G connectivity to nine subway lines starting from July 2020, and just three months later 5G coverage hit 75% of the entire network. It is a sign of South Korea’s progress in 5G that this connectivity level is actually under the national average.


Exhibition Centre / Siemens and Deutsche Messe, Hanover

Exhibitions are a vital cog of the economy – they are an unparalleled tool for companies to enter new markets, launch new products, and get the lie of the land when it comes to market trends. But representing a company at an exhibition requires fast and reliable connectivity to power event tech, HD video displays, and more – not to mention the tens of thousands of businesspeople working from their phones while on site. This makes exhibition venues a valid use case for private 5G networks, and a good example is the one to be established in 2021 by Siemens at the 1.4 million square metre Deutsche Messe exhibition centre in Hanover, Germany.

Siemens moved to establish the network after acquiring a frequency allocation in the 3.7-3.8 GHz range, and a key feature of this network is that it will remain in the exhibition hall permanently. This means that when exhibitions are not taking place, companies can use the network for trialling their own 5G-enabled technology – which will help to convince Germany’s industrial community that there are valid and worthwhile use cases for the technology.

“In the exhibition hall, innovative solutions for industrial networks are presented using this 5G network infrastructure. One particular feature of the Siemens infrastructure is that it will remain in the exhibition hall permanently and will be handed over to Deutsche Messe for commercial use. This means that other customers can also use the Siemens technology as a test environment for their products,” explains Dr. Jochen Köckler, Chairman of the Board at Deutsche Messe AG.


Commercialisation of network automation, like these four examples, is a key goal of network operators. That’s the reason for the Layer123 360° Network Automation Congress - an online event dedicated to telling stories of how CSPs are making network automation profitable. The event covers network commercialisation across the value chain – capex and opex savings, technology rollouts, and service enhancement, as well as the technologies that underpin these improvements such as ZTA, network slicing, real-time performance monitoring, and much more. You can see the full agenda and register to hear the sessions on the event website.