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5G-ENCODE reveals next phase of network slicing for industrial 5G

UK government backed next-generation network project 5G-ENCODE switches on the second phase of its network at the National Composites Centre, as it bids to move a step closer to realising the commercial benefits of 5G in manufacturing

Almost 18 months after the project was first announced, and almost a year after the successful completion of phase one, the 5G-ENCODE project that aims to make the benefits of 5G a reality for UK manufacturers has officially announced the switch-on of the second phase of its industrial private 5G network.

5G-ENCODE is a £9m collaborative project aiming to develop clear business cases and value propositions for 5G applications in manufacturing.

The project is partially funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the UK Government as part of its 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.

It’s run by a consortium of leading organisations led by Zeetta Networks, including National Composites Centre, Mativision, Plataine, Solvay, Toshiba, Telefonica, Siemens, Accedian and the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab. Deployment partners Druid Software and Airspan provide key technology components.

The project aims to prove the commercial benefit of 5G technology to enable three specific industrial use cases: augmented reality and virtual reality to support design, manufacturing and training; monitoring and tracking time sensitive assets; and wireless real-time in-process monitoring and analytics.

The first phase of the industrial private network used a 4G infrastructure to establish a baseline for existing cellular technologies, against which results from the private 5G network can be benchmarked. The results of phase one will be revealed at a phase two launch event in October 2021.

The consortium believes the key to the success of its use cases has been the deployment of network slicing and splicing technology developed by partner Zeetta Networks. It noted that in any manufacturing environment there are multiple tools and machines all requiring different levels of connectivity with varying degrees of latency and throughput.

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As slicing and splicing technology enables operators to create multiple virtual networks, customised according to specific services and traffic levels needed, 5G-ENCODE said the network can therefore be optimised to meet the needs of different processes to improve efficiency, performance and business output.

Moreover, through a Zeetta Networks’ multi-domain orchestrator platform, engineers can automate the splicing and dicing of the network resources, to provide users and machines with what 5G-ENCODE assured will be the exact level of connectivity to optimise performance at any time. Any leftover capacity can be directed elsewhere, making the factory far more efficient and productive.

As part of the phase two network deployment, Zeetta and partners have created a new network slice by stitching together slices from one transport network and two separate private networks: one located at NCC HQ and the other at another facility at NCCI located several miles away from the first location.

“For the first time in the world, an industrial 5G network can not only be customised and divided into multiple logical networks, but each of those virtual networks can be extended across a transport network to reach another virtual network in a completely different administrative domain,” said Zeetta Networks founder and CEO Vassilis Seferidis.

“This ‘end-to-end’ slice delivers continuous connectivity for the seamless delivery of applications across different network domains regardless of vendor or technology. This would allow, for example, a critical asset to be tracked continuously in real-time and with the same quality-of-service as it is transported from the point of production, to being received at the destination location.”

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