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WinWin Issue 42

Voices from Industry

By Yang Peng
Deputy General Manager of the Industrial Energy Sector Development Dept of the Government & Enterprises Branch of China Mobile Communication Co., Ltd.
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China Mobile Enters Golden Period of 5G Industry Applications: 5G Use Cases Grow by Over 100%

-- China Mobile has recently developed an effective approach to speed up its deployment of 5G applications across various industries, processes, and links. This approach has already been successfully replicated on 5G private networks across different industries at scale, implementing more than 15,000 5GtoB use cases to date.

China Mobile has entered a golden period of 5G industry applications. In 2022, its 5G use cases more than doubled year-on-year, launching more in one year than in the previous two years combined. What's more, China Mobile launched more use cases for vertical industries in six months than during the whole of 2021.

5G applications have already seen large-scale deployment across different vertical industries. Meanwhile, the large-scale development of 5G private networks has further spurred the development of China Mobile's data and information communication technology (DICT) business, with its DICT business revenue reaching CNY70 billion (a 40.8% year-on-year increase) during the first three quarters of 2022.

Leveraging 5G to empower enterprises

Through the large-scale application of 5G in more and more industries, China Mobile has been working hard to integrate 5G into enterprise production and people's everyday lives. These efforts have already received wide acclaim from all kinds of enterprises. Indeed, many enterprises are now convinced that 5G infrastructure will be at the heart of future digital-intelligent transformation. In particular, in the industrial energy sector, 5G has been applied to a great extent by helping to improve quality and efficiency and achieve flexible manufacturing, ultimately creating more value for enterprises. To make this a reality, China Mobile has been focusing on two primary types of applications:

China Mobile also works with industry partners to apply 5G for transforming the real economy with digitalization, connectedness, and intelligence, as well as promoting digital and intelligent production, lifestyles, and social governance.

First, applying 5G to accelerate the digitalization of traditional industries and achieve safer production. For example, the 5G-powered smart mining project in the Wotugou coal mine in Inner Mongolia uses a 5G private network to integrate intelligence into coal transport. This means that personnel are no longer needed in key areas like electromechanical chambers, which has led to over 46% fewer workers needing to go down into the mine each day. At the Ningbo-Zhoushan port, workers use 5G to remotely operate port machines from a central office, saving them from scaling gantry cranes to move containers. In this way, a single worker can now remotely operate four gantry cranes, reducing overall workforce requirements while significantly improving work efficiency and safety.

Second, applying 5G to promote the development of emerging industries, driving innovation and upgrade in manufacturing. For example, in its 5G-powered smart factory in Fujian province, CATL has deployed a highly secure 5G private network that connects more than 40 factories across eight cities in six provinces. The company has also used 5G for a host of new applications, such as ultra-high-speed AI-based visual inspections and real-time big data analytics and detection.

China Mobile also works with industry partners to apply 5G for transforming the real economy with digitalization, connectedness, and intelligence, as well as promoting digital and intelligent production, lifestyles, and social governance.

The challenges facing large-scale commercialization of 5G in the B2B market

The comprehensive application of 5G into various industries has propelled 5G private network application and development into a critical stage. Despite the numerous achievements already made, we must be acutely aware that 5G development still faces a series of challenges.

First, a unified and standard engineering service process needs to be developed for 5G projects. During the early implementation of 5G projects, we built many 5GtoB showcases and accumulated important project delivery experience. However, the delivery and operation efficiency of these projects was relatively low because the use cases were highly customized for specific industries. As such, the industry needs to continue exploring and defining a unified engineering service process that can be used to pave the way from 5G showcases to large-scale applications. For example, in 5G smart electricity projects, carriers have to implement network construction and maintenance on live grids. However, the qualifications and construction quotas required for carriers to do this on live grids are different from those in general conditions. This means that carriers and industry enterprises will need to work together to explore more feasible and practical solutions to guide subsequent project implementation.

Second, deterministic 5G private network assurance still needs to be improved to support deployment in more industries. For example, the industrial energy sector has high requirements when it comes to deterministic networking. As 5G industry applications extend from peripheral auxiliary activities to core production activities, enterprise requirements for 5G private networks will continue to increase. Larger bandwidth, lower latency, and wider connectivity will no longer be enough. Instead, higher network stability and reliability will also be needed. Although the industry has already begun to explore deterministic network assurance, we still need to work with other industry customers to promote verification and optimization.

Third, 5G private networks need to be further integrated with existing network technologies. Considering both value customer asset reuse and the convergence of different enterprise elements and processes, in-depth integration of 5G private networks with existing network technologies will be necessary for the further development of industrial networks. We've already made great progress converging 5G with technologies such as Wi-Fi, RFID, and UWB, which will undoubtedly bring significant economic benefits and practical value for customers. However, further integration of new technologies with existing networks calls for active participation of industry and market players, along with professional institutions.

In addition to these three key challenges, common issues to be tackled by the industry include the high price of modules and terminals, incomplete 5G private network services, and difficult monetization due to SMEs' sensitivity to prices. However, we believe these issues will likely be resolved and transformed into 5G development milestones as the industry value chain matures, the B2B and B2C markets converge, and customers gain more confidence in 5G industry applications.

Building a "1+1+1+N" product system to promote 5G and industrial Internet convergence

China Mobile has long been committed to promoting the convergence of 5G and the industrial Internet, as well as building a "1+1+1+N" product system. "1+1+1+N" stands for one type of competitive 5G industrial terminal modules, one good 5G industrial private network, and one strong industrial Internet platform to provide assurance for industrial Internet security on which N 5G application scenarios can be developed.

At the terminal level, China Mobile has already made great efforts to promote the support of industrial terminal modules for protocol standards, as well as to meet the industry value chain's cost reduction needs. China Mobile has also taken measures to promote the transformation of industrial terminals into devices and the large-scale development of the industry value chain. These measures include centralized procurement of industrial terminals, organizing supply-demand alignment meetings, self-development of terminals in key industries, and other cooperation and introduction efforts.

At the network level, China Mobile has made use of 5G private networks to strengthen support for industrial premises. This has helped ensure deterministic assurance for many services and is allowing 5G to develop from best-effort in B2C settings to deterministic network experience required in B2B settings.

Intrinsically deterministic 5G networks will be the direction of future evolution as such networks can provide enterprises with deterministic uplink bandwidth, latency, and positioning capabilities. In addition, China Mobile will upgrade the connotation, capabilities, and services of 5G private network products to implement one-stop management of 5G private networks. China Mobile will also actively participate in industrial Internet innovation and development projects, and work with enterprises to build high-quality industrial Internet networks.

At the platform level, China Mobile has leveraged its industrial platform to better support the development of specific industries and regions. Based on our previous explorations and experience, we have updated the OnePower platform by integrating 5G with AI, IoT, cloud computing, big data, and edge computing technologies (known as 5G+AICDE) while considering industry customer requirements, industry landscape, and ecosystem capabilities.

At the same time, China Mobile has built dedicated sub-platforms and general-purpose applications for more than 10 fields, including electric power, metallurgy, chemical industry, mining, and manufacturing. We have also built a regional industrial Internet platform to help enterprises in a region migrate to the cloud and enable local governments to accurately implement policies. This platform can also be used to better connect upstream and downstream players across the industry value chain to efficiently promote industry transformation and development. To date, we have already constructed recursive nodes in nine provinces and deployed level-2 nodes in 16 provinces and cities.

At the application level, China Mobile has made efforts to strengthen the support of industrial applications for typical scenarios. This includes working with multiple leading organizations in industrial, academic, and research fields in order to build more than 30 typical application scenarios and multiple industrial Internet showcases for "5G+" (China Mobile's plan to speed up the integration of 5G into every industry and walk of life), as well as to implement nearly 3000 5G+ industrial Internet projects. At the same time, we have actively promoted the formulation of multiple 5G+ Industrial Internet convergence standards and have continuously expanded 5G applications from peripheral auxiliary activities to core production activities.

At the security level, China Mobile has established a comprehensive 5G+ industrial Internet security assurance system. We have also launched our "One Center + Four Systems" program (one secure OAM center, together with secure technology, management, operation, and ecosystem cooperation systems) to provide comprehensive services ranging from pre-event prevention to in-event monitoring and post-event responses, as well as to meet differentiated requirements of various 5G plus industrial Internet security solutions.

In early September, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the Guidelines for Construction of 5G Fully Connected Factories. The Guidelines encourage 10,000 enterprises in China to build 5G fully-connected factories during the period of the 14th Five-Year Plan. To support the construction of fully-connected 5G factories, we have built a comprehensive "1+1+1+N" capability system and deployed the OnePower industrial Internet platform in 26 provinces based on the 5G networks supported by more than 1.25 million 5G base stations and industry-specific 5G private networks.

Going forward, China Mobile is open to working with more ecosystem partners to enhance the service capabilities of "5G fully connected factories" and contribute more to the construction of the 5G+ industrial Internet ecosystem.

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