Modernizing an industrial operation to support Industry 4.0 applications can
be a remarkably complex challenge. This is especially true where a facility
uses legacy fixed Ethernet to connect machines to a central office location.
Transition may be easier where a facility has already changed to
wireless, but evolving to next-generation capabilities can expose the limits
of commercially-supplied Wi-Fi and LTE cellular networks. That’s
because Industry 4.0 makes use of highly automated, intelligent and
collaborative cyber-physical systems which require highly stable, low-latency
As a result, a growing number of enterprises in manufacturing, energy, mining,
power distribution, logistics and other sectors are going private.
They’re moving away from established network operators and bringing
their wireless networks in-house.
Wireless for Flexibility and Performance
Transitioning to a private wireless network offers flexibility to reconfigure,
upgrade and evolve the setup as needed enabling factory operations to run
smoothly and cost-effectively. When designing, deploying and running an
in-house network, it is feasible to optimize for a specific set of
requirements, for example, coverage, privacy and performance. Consistent, reliable
coverage can be guaranteed, even where access to a commercial network may be
limited or inconsistent. Control is maintained over proprietary information,
since data doesn’t travel over public channels where it’s more
vulnerable to piracy or attack. Running a private wireless network also makes
it easier to use configurations or features, such as high-level data
protections or specific data rates, which may not be readily available from
The wireless technology used in current private networks is varied. Some
applications implement a relatively simple 802.11-based setup whilst others
use cellular protocols for example, 700 MHz LTE cellular, which the United States
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized for commercial purposes in
5G for Long-term Growth
As 5G cellular becomes more widely available, we expect Industry 4.0 to rely
on 5G for its private wireless network. Industrial automation is a focal point
for 5G and is a prominent part of the phased roll-out of 5G standards.
In 2019, the Release 15 standards for 5G expanded support for the low power-wide
area (LPWA) technologies currently used in the industrial Internet of
things (IoT), and introduced the new radio (NR), which is the basis for more
advanced functionality. The upcoming Release 16 standards, scheduled for 2020,
will go even further in their support for industrial automation, with the
introduction of Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC).
With URLLC, wireless connections on the factory floor become exceptionally
stable and can operate with end-to-end latency rates close to or even below
one millisecond. The combination of ultra-high reliability, high availability
and ultra-low latency means URLLC will support smart factories that use
artificial intelligence, augmented reality and advanced robotics. The URLLC
features of 5G give cellular the capacity to take industrial automation well
into the future.
The promise of 5G for industrial automation is strong enough that several
countries, including Germany and Japan, are already allocating spectrum for
use with private 5G networks in these types of deployments.
5G Features to Look For
5G standards address the needs of factory automation in two ways –
through the 5G NR radio and through the 5G system architecture. In the radio,
features that improve stability and reduce latency include flexible
numerology, spatial diversity, Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP) operation,
centimeter-accurate positioning, Quality of Service (QoS) and spectrum
flexibility, including operation in the NR-unlicensed band. In the system,
features enhancing factory automation include network slicing, improved
security, new authentication methods, easier edge-cloud deployment and support
for time-sensitive networking (TSN).
The NXP Perspective
At NXP, we’re strong supporters of private 5G networks for industrial
automation. We see 5G as the future of industrial operation and are working to
make that future a reality. To do this, we’re building on our expertise
and leadership in industrial applications.
NXP’s portfolio builds on a long-standing presence in industrial
networking and control. Our industry-leading Layerscape LS1043, LS1028 and
i.MX series supports advanced connectivity while also offering the reliability
and long-term availability required for industrial applications. Extending
this functionality to include 5G connectivity is a logical next step.
In October 2019, NXP
introduced the new Layerscape Access
family of fully programmable baseband products for 5G Access Edge systems.
This new 5G family builds on the performance of our existing Layerscape
processors, Airfast line of RF multi-chip modules for 5G cellular base
stations and EdgeVerse portfolio of solutions. The result is
antenna-to-processor functionality optimized for advanced applications like
Industry 4.0. We back this solution with a highly flexible, software-based
solution, supported by an ecosystem of software vendors who help deliver a
To learn more about NXP’s approach to 5G and the use of private
wireless networks in industrial applications, visit us at