Orange Belgium, a leading French telecommunications provider, is increasing its focus on private 5G technologies to enhance the utilization of drones, virtual reality (VR), and robotics in various industries. This 5G implementation aims to decrease the carbon footprint and enable inspectors to oversee operations from a distance with the assistance of VR and robotic technologies.
In a partnership with Belgian ship management firm Seafar, Orange Belgium will deploy private 5G to allow ship captains to remotely manage unmanned vessels. This will be achieved through the use of connected 360-degree cameras linked to VR headsets, an upgrade from the current 4G-enabled remote control via camera footage.
This 5G transition will provide Seafar with high-quality imaging capabilities, allowing the control center's captains to virtually experience the vessels through VR headsets. The lower latency associated with 5G ensures quicker and more precise responses to commands, even at distances of up to 100 kilometers.
An additional feature, known as network slicing, will grant the ships exclusive access to their specific network pathways, eliminating the need to rely on congested 4G bands or public networks.
Ghazaleh Kia, Seafar's R&D project manager, regards the project as transformative.
"With 5G, we'll be able to increase the use of unmanned inland shipping vessels, leading to cost savings, enhanced efficiency, and decreased carbon emissions," Kia stated.
Furthermore, Orange Belgium is extending its 5G deployment to facilitate inspections at industrial sites, tank terminals, container terminals, and infrastructure by using drones for automated inspections. Antwerp-based SkyeBase has previously employed automated drones and robotics for inspections, but the process still required manual interventions.
The integration of standalone 5G will enable drones to upload footage directly to inspectors, streamlining the process. Tom Daniëls, co-founder and CIO of SkyeBase, elaborated that remote communication with experts will be simplified, stating that "the 5G standalone network ensures guaranteed bandwidth, which is vital for connection reliability."
This deployment reflects a broader trend in the industry, as illustrated by a collaboration between telecom company Ericsson and Telia earlier this year. They teamed up to create a private 5G network to supervise and coordinate numerous devices in factories using sensor technology.