5 Real Life Use Cases of 5G Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC)

January 17, 2021

5G adoption continues to progress at a high rate in subscribers and deployment. The 5th generation mobile network enables applications and services that require better reliability, improved energy efficiency, massive connection density, and lower latency. This adoption is making industries faster, efficient, and our connected lives better.

A 5G Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) service makes it possible to support use cases that require very high reliability and extremely low latency. Examples of these use cases include industrial automation, intelligent transportation, smart electricity grid, entertainment support, and remote diagnosis and surgery.

This article explains 5G URLLC and its real-life applications in detail.

What is 5G URLLC?

Cellular phone companies started deploying the fifth-generation technology standards, 5G, in 2019. The 5G network has higher download speeds and greater bandwidth than its predecessor, the 4G network.

5G has three facets:

  1. Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) - It connects many low-power internet of things (IoT) devices to the cellular network.
  2. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – It supports bandwidth-driven use cases that require high data rates to bring a faster and better user experience.
  3. Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) – It is applicable in mission-critical use cases such as smart grids, intelligent transport systems, and remote surgery.

URLLC provides ultra-high network reliability of more than 99.999% and very low latency (of 1 millisecond) for packet transmission. These two features make URLLC a primary usage scenario for 5G as it ensures data transmission within a few milliseconds, with high reliability.

Applications of 5G URLLC

Smart factory/industrial automation

URLLS is one of the fourth industrial revolution’s technological drivers, alongside other technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, 3D printing, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, and robotics.

Manufacturing companies are automating industrial control by developing networks in production plants. URLLC helps to automate factory processes and power systems.

Companies are replacing humans with robots in the manufacturing process to achieve higher productivity and reliability.

Within car assembly lines, URLLC helps achieve high reliability to avoid damages to car parts during assembly and achieves minimum latency to keep up with the moving tray along the assembly line.

Industry technical standards, such as PROFINET, demand low latency. They also require strict latency bonds with required guarantee levels to ensure safety in the system. PROFINET is a communication protocol that allows data exchange between devices and controllers over industrial Ethernet. 5G URLLC can meet the PROFINET’s demands with greater flexibility, safety, and efficiency in production lines.

Healthcare industry

An emerging use case of 5G is augmented reality (AR)-assisted surgery. Surgeons depend on surgical AR to target surgical resection in a more accurate and objective process, thus minimizing the risk of relapse.

Furthermore, AR-assisted surgery enables surgeons to carry out surgical and diagnostic procedures remotely through a combination of robotic arms and sensors. Data transmitted as instruction for robots must be highly reliable. A slight delay or latency may mean harm to the patient.

Doctors use virtual reality (VR) headsets to view the inside of the human body. Surgeons may also require patients to use VR headsets when taking them through their surgical plan. There is usually a high latency between action and response (head movements in particular) for VR headsets users. 5G URLLC helps overcome this issue, allowing a more expansive VR experience in the medical field.

Intelligent transportation

5G URLLC is applied in drone-based delivery to estimate traffic density in real-time, in self-driven cars, and in substation control to synchronize systems and manage traffic. Some of these applications entail network communication, involving broadcast from vehicle-to-everything (V2X) servers, that include vehicles and everything around the traffic system. Such communications modes are significant to route discovery and collision avoidance in real-time.

In predictive vehicle maintenance, 5G URLLC provides a secure, highly reliable wireless connectivity that supports a high density of devices to provide real-time data analytics based on defined metrics. The metrics, including vibration and temperature, are registered from multiple wireless sensors connected to a cellular network and integrated into the vehicle management system. The data analytics results from this system help avoid potential issues, keep the vehicle maintained, decrease maintenance costs, and improve downtime.

Entertainment and media

Live events reporting, cloud-based entertainment (AR/VR), live sports events, and online gaming are some of the use cases of 5G URLLC in the sports and entertainment industry.

5G URLLC enables a standard use of technologies supporting wireless studio, electronic news gathering, audio Programme Making, Special Events (PMSE) production, conferencing, and more. Areas such as cloud gaming and immersive media are expected to advance in the future of 5G.

More coverage of the 5G network worldwide will promote a more reliable distribution of content within homes and businesses. This is partly due to 5G URLLC’s ability to ensure audio synchronicity and low latency and support for remote presence applications and immersive 3D. Remote presence applications and immersive virtual 3D environments demand low latency interaction.

Smart electricity grid and harbor automation

Smart grids improve electricity distribution worldwide by using communication capabilities to provide better balancing of power while detecting and mitigating faults.

5G URLLC provides a seamless and affordable communication platform for deploying advanced technologies for managing power distribution networks in a time of rising need for such flexibility and a growing amount of distributed energy resources.

The Wireless for Verticals (WIVE) research project presented one of the real-life use cases of 5G, relating to the electricity grid and harbor automation. Low latency and high reliability are significant in this project to ensure the protection of electricity grid infrastructure and harbor automation.

Protection applications, including those in medium-voltage (MV) distribution networks, use the URLLC technology to release reliable, low-latency safety-related messages. This is ensuring immediate clearance of severe faults to keep the electricity distribution network running. In the long run, users will benefit from increased safety of personnel equipment and reduced damage to that equipment.

Challenges in implementing 5G URLLC use cases

Enabling the ultra-reliability and ultra-low latency that is required by such use cases presents significant challenges.

These industries must increase their capacity to cope with the increased latency and bandwidth requirements. Besides, the data processing required and the big data generated from more connected equipment and devices is a big challenge.

Deploying 5G URLLC comes with technical requirements, standards, and security demands that industries may find challenging.

Conclusion

Ultra-reliable low-latency communication is a revolutionary communications technology in today’s digital world. With 5G URLLC, we can have a better entertainment experience, increase machine productivity in factories, conduct remote diagnosis and remote surgeries, improve electricity distribution/personnel protection, and manage traffic more efficiently.


Peer Review Contributions by: Lalithnarayan C


About the author

Eric Kahuha

Eric is a data scientist interested in using scientific methods, algorithms, and processes to extract insights from both structural and unstructured data. Enjoys converting raw data into meaningful information and contributing to data science topical issues.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.