PRESS RELEASE: Recently, China Unicom Guangdong, Huawei, and TD-Tech collaborated to realize large-scale commercial use of 5G RedCap (Reduced Capability) in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), which is a global manufacturing center in Southern China.

This is the largest 5G RedCap industry collaboration project in industry, which has more than 80 core members and serving more than 1500 enterprise, with direct economic benefits of $21 million and industrial chain benefits of $140 million. The success of this project will not only press the acceleration key for streamlining the last mile of industry digitalization with 5G, but also provides valuable reference for applications of RedCap in the world.

Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is a manufacturing center and one of the most developed areas for digitalization in China and globally. However, enterprises in the GBA are often facing the challenge of expensive 5G terminals, in case when they try to increase their commercial use of 5G for medium- and high-speed IoT applications. The 5G RedCap technology defined in 3GPP Release 17 is supposed to be the key solution as it can effectively reduce the cost and power consumption of 5G terminals while retaining some native NR (New Radio) capabilities for industry applications.

To that end, China Unicom Guangdong, Huawei, and TD Tech established the 5G RedCap Joint Innovation Hub in April 2023, to accelerate the development of 5G RedCap technology and its commercial use. With the close cooperation among operators, network equipment vendors, terminal producers, and leading enterprises in the GBA,

it took only eight months to launch the RedCap commercial network of 10,000+ sites, incubate 20+ commercial modules &terminals, roll out 10+ RedCap applications in smart manufacturing, and deploy a 5G RedCap network awareness and analysis platform to simplify O&M (operation and maintenance) with massive connections, greatly improving the production and logistics efficiency in manufacturing.

RedCap Commercial Use Case Study

In the industrial field of 5G applications, the 5G NR solution are too complex and hard to scale for many IoT applications. On the other hand, there are increasing requirements for 5G medium- and high-speed IoT applications. In the following cases, the cost of 5G RedCap terminals have been significantly reduced while the expected performance is comparable with NR.

Midea’s Shunde factory is the world’s largest dishwasher production base, with an annual output of 6 million units and products sold to 145 countries and regions. It is also one of the WEF (World Economic Forum) lighthouse factories of Midea Group, the world-famous pioneer in industry 4.0. Based on the 3.5 GHz 5G commercial spectrum, engineers from China Unicom Guangdong and Midea connected RedCap DTU (Data Transfer Unit) to the MES (Manufacturing Execution System) equipment in the commercial environment of 5G private network. With 5G RedCap, information such as product assembly station and finished product location in warehouse etc. are sent to the Kanban in the workshop. In this way, 5G RedCap not only improved production efficiency, but also made the production link visible and controllable. The two parties also use RedCap DTU to implement real-time AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) and forklift scheduling in the final assembly workshop, with efficiency comparable to that using 5G NR modules.

GREE is a leading manufacturer in the GBA, whose products are exported to more than 160 countries and serving more than 400 million users worldwide. In the workstations of GREE Gaolan factory, only one 5G RedCap terminal with 5G slicing are used to support three commercial applications, i.e. PLC control, Kanban, and industrial camera, saving 5G terminal cost of $300,000 in total. They also used RedCap to support 5G LAN, which enables auto-configuration of IP addresses for KIVA logistics terminals, improving O&M efficiency by 30%.

Foshan Haitian is the world’s largest manufacturer of condiment, with drying and fermentation environment of more than 800,000 square meters. With the coordination of 5G macro AAU, 5G pole EasyMacro and 5G indoor Lampsite, a 5G RedCap network with continuous coverage of both indoor and outdoor area has been launched at Haitian Dongming production base. In scenarios such as data collection and location surveillance of the vehicles moving through the outdoor fermenters, capabilities of RedCap industrial gateway (protocol parsing, data transmission, and high-precision B code timing etc.) are utilized to realize real time data transfer to the MEC (Mobile Edge Computing). Meanwhile, the low-latency capabilities of RedCap are utilized to enable SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system control for the automatic production line of bottling production and warehousing. The end to end delay of the RedCap industrial gateway is stable at about 30ms, without any jitter detected in case of power failure and restart, and fully meets the requirements of the digital production.

In these cases, 5G RedCap provides an efficient way to connect factory machines to the intelligent edge cloud., which is cost effective and can meets the requirements of massive 5G full-connected factory applications such as DTU data collection, handheld PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), MES/SCADA device online, logistics AGV, and campus intelligent video monitoring. All the core technical indicators, such as access and camping ratio of 5G cells, uplink and downlink peak rates, end-to-end user latency, 5G base station power consumption, and impact of 5G existing users, were verified to meet the design requirements. As a result, manufacturing enterprises in the GBA now prefer to use 5G RedCap instead of traditional cabling, which is more expensive and cumbersome.

A Novel Platform of RedCap Network Awareness

The 5G private network features high bandwidth, wide connectivity, low latency, and high security, which can well meet the customized network requirements of application scenarios in enterprises. However, enterprises are often worried about the operation risks of 5G networks due to the lack of effective warning methods on fault links in potential. Meanwhile, there is also lack of effective diagnosis tools, which made the whole process of troubleshooting inefficient and time-consuming.

RedCap has greatly reduced the cost of terminals in the 5G industry, which will further unleash the potential of 5G private networks. In the 5G fully connected factory, it is expected that more 5G application scenarios will be created, and the number of 5G connections will increase explosively. In consequence, the scale and complexity of 5G private networks will increase, and network management will become more difficult. To address this issue, China Unicom Guangdong, together with Huawei and TD Tech, have jointly developed the 5G RedCap network awareness and analysis platform. With lightweight probe units embedded into RedCap terminals and data streams aggregated and analyzed on the AI driven platform, 7×24 network monitoring, service risk warning, and intelligent fault locating can be implemented for 5G private networks in industry.

With this platform, quantitative analysis and visualized management of end to end network performance KPIs can be performed comprehensively and in real time, greatly improving the operation efficiency of the 5G RedCap private network. It has not only helped enterprises in the GBA to detect sub-healthy network links in a timely manner, but can also accurately locate the specific IP addresses of fault points, with the network risk warning efficiency improved by 90%, and the network fault locating efficiency improved by 30%.

  • 5G RedCap Drives Digital Transformation for SMEs

There are more than one million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gather along the upstream and downstream of the industry chain in the GBA. Against the background of downward pressure on the world economy and insufficient demand for domestic economic recovery, more and more of them resort to digital transformation for cost reduction and efficiency improvement today.

However, many SMEs in the GBA are facing the difficulty of capital, technology and talent in digital transformation. Partners of the 5G RedCap Joint Innovation Hub have provided support to SMEs from the following aspects:

China Unicom Guangdong cooperates with Huawei to provide a set of standardized and modularized 5G RedCap network products and solutions. With these solutions, SMEs can complete the selection of network equipment and configuration of networking function with only “one click”, that is, to input field parameters such as installation height, area, terminal density etc. and service performance requirements such as network uplink bandwidth, low latency, positioning, slicing, and 5G LAN etc. Then China Unicom Guangdong and Huawei can provide the required service promptly.

5G private network can achieve access latency of millisecond-level and ensure data enclosed in the campus in a secured way for large enterprises. In order to support SMEs with the comparable 5G private network service, China Unicom Guangdong cooperates with professional 5G IoT service providers such as Midea Cloud, to enable 5G MEC edge cloud platform with capability openness and resource sharing. In this way, SMEs can use standardized 5G RedCap application components with much reduced deployment cost and duration.

China Unicom Guangdong has a team of hundreds of professional and technical personnel to support SMEs with digital transformation across the GBA. They pay visit to SMEs regularly and provide them with free consultation services on digital transformation. In this way, China Unicom Guangdong has developed better understanding of SMEs application requirements. China Unicom Guangdong also collaborated with Industrial 4.0 Associations in the GBA to maintain a database of 5G RedCap application scenarios and requirements covering thousands of SMEs in more than 40 segments of industries, which is valuable in targeted network planning and promotion of 5G RedCap commercialization.

A Hub to Strengthen the Collaboration for RedCap Industry

In the past, the development of communication networks, terminals, and services was often disjointed. It usually takes years, from introducing new standards to deploying large-scale commercial networks and developing a mature ecosystem of terminals and services. Industry applications could take even longer to materialize because of their requirements for high network availability.

Through the 5G RedCap Joint Innovation Hub, all partners of the RedCap industry can give full play to their respective advantages and jointly promote the 5G RedCap large-scale commercia use in the GBA.

China Unicom Guangdong and Huawei jointly built a 5G RedCap commercial network validation field covering 900 MHz, 2.1 GHz, and 3.5 GHz frequency bands based on the China Unicom Guangdong’s 5G commercial network. In this field, they mastered core technologies from network technical verification to large-scale deployment and performance optimization of RedCap commercial network only in a month. It took only 2 month that the two parties expanded the mature, stable, and reliable 5G RedCap network coverage of 300 sites for enterprises in the GBA, while ensuring that KPIs of eMBB users on the live network are not affected. Up to now, the scale of China Guangdong Unicom’s 5G RedCap commercial network has exceeded 10,000 sites.

TD Tech has been leading the industry in terms of RedCap terminal incubation. Taking advantage of its own module development advantages, TD Tech also supported other terminal producers such as Dahua, Hongdian, Four-Faith etc. to develop RedCap terminals in various applications for the GBA manufacturing enterprises. With the full-stack of 5G network equipment and test instruments, China Unicom Guangdong and Huawei jointly provide the test and verification service for RedCap terminals free of charge, which substantially shorted the duration of 5G RedCap terminals going to the market. It took only 3 months for the first 5G RedCap commercial DTU to be available in the market. Now, more than 20 RedCap terminals, i.e. DTUs, gateways, intelligent cameras, and CPEs have been developed according to the requirements of the GBA enterprises. In short, the collaboration of partners in the 5G RedCap Joint Innovation Hub greatly facilitates the selection and batch purchase of RedCap terminals for enterprises in the GBA.

With the natural advantage as an operator, China Unicom Guangdong has developed close cooperation with leading enterprises and industrial IoT service providers in the GBA since the beginning of 5G NR release. So, it is relatively easy for China Unicom Guangdong to apply with 5G RedCap in these factories such as Midea, GREE, Haitian, and FAW-Volkswagen. Of course, Huawei and TD Tech have prepared a whole set of test cases and application rollout assurance plans to ensure stable commercial operation of service applications with 5G RedCap. To date they have rolled out 10+ applications in manufacturing, including data collection, predictive maintenance, 5G scanner, 5G mold counter, 5G HMI (Human Machine Interface), 5G Kanban, 5G AGV, PLC (Programmable Logic Comptroller) / SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) control, quality inspection, and video surveillance.

RedCap is the key to increase the value of IoT connections and achieve the goal of 5G IoT “10 Billion Connections”. Nevertheless, RedCap is currently in the early stages of industry development. In the future, we will work with partners of the 5G RedCap Joint Innovation Hub, to promote the digital transformation and benefit the whole society.