URLLC Use Cases in 5G

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In an earlier blog post (How 5G will change the face of communication), we examined three use case categories of 5G: consumer-facing Internet or Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine Type Connectivity (MMTC), and Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Connectivity (URLLC). We further argued that the true benefit of 5G would be from MMTC and URLLC, which would pave the way for Industrial IoT.  In this post, we examine some pathbreaking use cases that would come to the fore due to URLLC.

The name URLLC touches upon two aspects of 5G: reliability and latency. Reliability, in the case of IP networks, is often defined as a percentage of packet loss and most use cases expecting network reliability exceeding 99.99%. Latency is the other network parameter that comes to play when establishing a high degree of device responsiveness. Network operators and consumers understand that there is an implicit trade-off between throughput, reliability, and latency (Fundamental Tradeoffs among Reliability, Latency and Throughput in Cellular Networks, by Soret et al). 5G addresses this tradeoff by assuring a packet loss of no more than 10-5 for 32-byte packets with a latency of 1ms (5G standards in 3GPP, Balazs Bertenyi) while maintaining high data throughput rates. With these standards, 5G enables ultra-reliable low latency use cases across many industries, which we discuss next.


10-5 Failure Rate

Of data transmitted over 5G at latency of 1ms
5G standards in 3GPP, Balazs Bertenyi

Manufacturing

With current technologies (4G LTE and Ethernet), most communication use cases in manufacturing focus on Intra & inter-enterprise collaboration. The future Digital Factory will be a connected factory with resources, machines, vehicles, and even products talking to each other through a connectivity layer. The digital factory will also witness a play with connected sensors, remote-controlled robots, and AR-supported maintenance & repair of devices. Manufacturing use cases make significant demands of the network and certain robotics-related use cases such as motion control require end-to-end latency of no more than 1ms and reliability of 99.999% – these are the demands that will be fulfilled by 5G (5G URLLC Ultra Reliable low latency communication).

Healthcare

A highly anticipated use case emerging from 5G is that of AR-assisted surgery. This would provide the medical professionals the ability to carry out diagnostic & surgical procedures in remote locations through a combination of sensors and robotic arms. A key technology ingredient here would the ability of hardware devices to provide haptic feedback, which would enable the interaction to mimic a real in-person interaction as closely as possible.

Automotive / Transportation

Although the autonomous vehicle has been the poster-child use case of URLLC, other equally significant use cases exist in the realm of transportation. Some of these involve direct communication between different entities such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) or network communication, i.e. involving broadcast from a V2X server to vehicles and beyond (5G standards in 3GPP, Balazs Bertenyi). These modes of communication would help not only in real-time use cases such as collision avoidance and route discovery but also in more mundane operations such as preventive vehicle maintenance.

Entertainment & Communication

Online and immersive gaming will see a step up with AR, VR, and Mixed Reality-based applications emerging in the backdrop of 5G. Operating at latencies of roughly 2ms (The Role of 5G URLLC for the Future of Mobile Service Providers by ABI Research & Intel), these use cases are important not only for personal communication but also for remote diagnostics and collaboration in an industrial environment.

The above list of use cases is by no means exhaustive and merely suggests the possibilities on the horizon. It must also be kept in mind that the initial rollouts of 5G networks are largely focused on the consumer-facing eMBB use cases, and the above-mentioned use cases may take some more years to come into the mainstream.