For this reason, the parties have published the '5G Smart Port White Paper', in which they describe the current abilities and the future potential of 5G in ports.

As the report says, smart ports require communications systems to support low latency, high bandwidth, and high reliability communication services in order to handle control data and multi-channel video data of port equipment. With legacy communication based on optical fiber and Wi-Fi, network deployment, operation and maintenance are costly and network performance for such data handling is often suboptimal with poor stability and low reliability.

5G is expected to address such challenges thanks to its low latency, large bandwidth and capacity, and high reliability as well as its support for private network solutions and end-to-end (E2E) application performance guarantee

Namely, digital innovations and artificial intelligence (AI), big data, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and autonomous driving provide new impetus for port automation. Higher-level automation has been used for container terminals to improve productivity and efficiency and ensure competitiveness. According to data from the International Maritime Information:

  • Nearly 75% of port operators believed that automation is critical in order to maintain competitiveness in the next three to five years;
  • 65% of port operators view automation as a lever for operation security;
  • Respondents were optimistic about the overall return on investment. About one third thought that automation could increase productivity by 50%, while about one in five said automation could reduce operating costs by more than 50%.

Innovation of Modern Ports

As global ports are moving towards 5G and gradually accelerating the upgrade and innovation, the intelligentization and informatization construction of ports are considered important means to improve the core competitiveness of ports.

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They are also key to reducing logistics costs and improving logistics efficiency. For this reason, many ports have tried to apply information technologies such as IoT, big data, cloud computing, and geographic information system (GIS) to port operation.

Smart Port Service Scenario Analysis

Based on surveys, discussions, and analysis with port industry partners, four typical smart port scenarios are identified that have requirements for wireless communications and can be enabled by 5G in the future:

  • Remote control of gantry cranes;
  • Remote control of quayside container cranes;
  • Cross-vehicle control of IGVs;
  • Video surveillance and AI recognition;
port application requirements on 5G wireless network

Port Application Requirements on 5G Wireless Network / Credit: Huawei

5G Standard and Deployment Progress

The first version of the international standard  for 5G has now been finalized, and the enhanced version is under development and should be completed by March 2020. The future Release 17 has started technology layout and is now in the project initiation and planning phase.

5G's high data rate, massive connectivity, and low latency mean that it meets the requirements of the future Internet of Everything (IoE) and promote the development of industrial capacities. In terms of high data rate, Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) can reach a peak rate of 10 Gbps with an average throughput of hundreds of Mbps.

As for massive connectivity, Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) supports 1 million connections in a single cell. Regarding low latency, Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) can deliver an air interface latency of 1 ms.

Currently, Release 15, as the basic version of the 5G standard, will first enable eMBB applications. In Release 16, URLLC and mMTC will be introduced to comprehensively enable the digital construction of industries.

The main advantages of the 5G smart port private network are as follows:

  • Ports can define their own network name;
  • It can provide guaranteed services;
  • Public network users cannot access the port private network;
  • The user traffic model inside the private network is relatively stable;
  • The latency and throughput within the private network are stable and predictable.

Future Prospect of 5G Smart Port

In the future, the construction and management of smart ports will be necessary to the port industry. Port operations will continue to develop, following trends like device automation, intelligent scheduling, and data visualization. Remote control of RTG cranes is only an initial attempt at 5G application in the industry. 5G will promote the all-around automation of traditional terminals, create new applications, and improve production efficiency.

You may see more information on 5G potential for ports, in the following PDF