Zeetta Networks Underpinning 5G ENCODE with Network Slicing

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By Michael Larner | 3Q 2020 | IN-5854

Continuing the theme from recent ABI Insights of initiatives that encourage manufacturers to test 5G networks to support Industry 4.0 applications, ABI Research caught up with Zeetta Networks’ CEO, Vassilis Seferidis, to find out how the 5G Enabling Connectivity for Digital Engineering (5G-ENCODE) is progressing.

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5G-ENCODE Explores Business Cases and Value Propositions for 5G in Manufacturing


Continuing the theme from recent ABI Insights of initiatives that encourage manufacturers to test 5G networks to support Industry 4.0 applications, ABI Research caught up with Zeetta Networks’ CEO, Vassilis Seferidis, to find out how the 5G Enabling Connectivity for Digital Engineering (5G-ENCODE) is progressing.

In February 2020, the United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced funding worth GBP£9 million for the 5G ENCODE project, making it the largest industrial 5G trial in the United Kingdom. The project is due to run for two years and is a small component of DCMS’s GBP£200 million fund for Industrial 5G Testbeds and Trials, which covers not only manufacturing but also farming, policing, and tourism.

Network automation specialist Zeetta Networks was chosen to lead the project and works with consortium partners Telefonica, Siemens, Toshiba, Solvay, Mativision and Plataine as well as the National Composites Centre (NCC), the University of Bristol, and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).

5G-ENCODE involves the creation of a private 5G network at the NCC in Bristol, which is one of seven centers that form the United Kingdom’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. The network is being used to research new business cases and value propositions for a 5G network in a manufacturing environment. Similar to the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) trial in Singapore, as discussed in Singapore’s IMDA to Run a Manufacturing 5G Trial with the Help of IBM, Samsung, and M1 (IN-5849), the applications running on the network include Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications to support designers and training activities and, as mentioned in A 5G Network Improves Productivity at Worcester Bosch but More Work Required to Encourage Others to Follow (IN-5726), tracking and monitoring time-sensitive assets. NCC houses research teams from dozens of different manufacturers, including Airbus, Bae Systems, Boeing, and Rolls Royce; with this in mind, 5G-ENCODE will be testing network splicing and slicing as part of the project.

Zeetta Splicing and Slicing with 5G


Zeetta Networks was formed in 2015, having been spun-out from the University of Bristol’s High-Performance Networking group and today employs 30 individuals. Despite COVID-19 necessitating a reduction in the numbers of staff Zeetta can have working in the NCC, the company is confident that the project will still be able to show tangible results in September 2020, as outlined back in February.

One of the key benefits of the project is that it provides firms with the opportunity to test and evaluate applications utilizing the security and connectivity offered by a 5G network. Some firms in the NCC are working on creating resins for prototypes of aircraft wings or automobile parts while another is looking to use the network to have cameras provide a 360-degree view of their operations in 8K definition.

Zeetta’s network management platform, NetOS, supports four key products: VISUALISE (network monitoring), OPTIMISE (enabling the provision and assurance of network services), AUTOMATE (for scheduling deployment of bundles of services across the network) and the RAPIDE “network-in-a-box” solution for managing private LTE and 5G networks.

For Zeetta, 5G-ENCODE gives the firm the opportunity to showcase their network management expertise. For example, their network slicing technology enables NCC’s customers, who are in competition with one another, to securely use Industry 4.0 applications over the same 5G network infrastructure. Similarly, Zeetta’s network splicing technology allows NCC to track critical assets as they move across multiple sites and network domains both indoors (private 5G network) and outdoors (public 5G network).

However, Network Slicing Is Not Necessarily the Way Forward in Manufacturing


A consortium approach for projects of this nature works as both suppliers and manufacturers are looking to fully understand the potential for 5G networks before committing further. One of the main advantages is that a trial provides a risk-free environment to evaluate and capitalize on the capabilities offered by a 5G network. However, all participants need to be measuring productivity improvements enabled by the 5G network.

The major benefit for Zeetta particularly is that the 5G-ENCODE project gives it the opportunity to showcase its network management capabilities to both global telecoms providers and leading manufacturers, so the project is part of the firm’s customer acquisition program for the next 18 months.

Network slicing has the potential to be utilized on the factory floor by providing customized, isolated, and secure pipes of connectivity to different users or low-latency applications; for example, production data at the one end needs the highest security and lowest latency while traffic from corporate applications requires less. In addition, network slicing will be required when manufacturers want to have multiple communications suppliers operating over the same network infrastructure. However, ABI Research’s market research indicates that manufacturers have a preference for networks that are private and fully operated by them as opposed to sharing their networks with third parties using network slicing.

Government investment in these trials is welcome, as firms won’t necessarily experiment by themselves, but the next 12 months will be a critical period for connectivity suppliers to show return on investments lest enthusiasm wanes among government bodies and funding taps dry up.

It will take time for “must-have” applications for 5G networks to transpire. At the moment, for most manufacturers, 5G networks still await an essential manufacturing problem to solve.



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