5G-ready private cellular networks can improve ports’ operations


As smart, connected facilities document additional gains and efficiencies, port operators are increasingly interested in deploying new solutions. However, the high density of devices in a mature smart port presents new challenges and connectivity requirements to manage.

Ericsson’s latest research shows that future ports can create new cost reductions, as well as increased port worker safety and more responsible environmental impact.

Now, the shipping industry is set to grow over the next decade. Cargotec, in its Investor presentation (2020), indicated a compound annual growth rate (CARG) of 3.6% for the global container throughput from 2013 to 2024. To handle the growth and increased traffic, future ports will need to adopt smarter and more efficient operations.

Ericsson’s report, “Connected Ports – A guide to making ports smarter with private cellular technology,” examines how private cellular networks will play a critical role in overcoming these by delivering high-speed connectivity, low latency, and strong performance in environments with high device density. Further, the report features a deep-dive analysis of five high-value use cases that illustrate how 5G-ready networks address specific pain points and offer a path to the future.

According to the report, if ports adopt remote control or automation for cranes or other equipment, they reduce the risk of harm to onsite human operators and improve efficiency.

Additionally, the report shares the path necessary to bridge the connectivity gaps in future ports. As previous automation and digital transformation efforts relied on communication technologies that can no longer handle the density, bandwidth, and latency required today, teams need a new approach. For instance, automated guided vehicles navigate throughout the ports as driverless forklifts and other materials handling vehicles. These moving vehicles require ample bandwidth and a reliable connection.

5G-ready private cellular networks enable mission-critical communication services, like voice and data services. In the future, this will help prevent injury, minimize economic impact during disasters or emergencies, and decrease future financial or economic risk.

5G also means smooth sailing in the future when it comes to positioning accuracy, reliable connectivity for moving objects, as well as using only one backhaul for all services. This ensures port operators can streamline the approach instead of installing several pieces of network equipment on a crane, for example.

To test the value in connected ports, the report devised a baseline port with ifm electronic GmbH. The baseline port represents one of the top 100 container ports in the world with approximately 4 million TEUs per year, generating roughly USD 400 million in revenue.

It also analyzed 5 use cases according to their potential for generating strong value, as well as their feasibility. Use cases include:

  • Automated rubber-tired gantry (RTG) cranes
  • Remote-controlled ship-to-shore (STS) cranes
  • Automated guided vehicles (AGVs)
  • Condition monitoring
  • Drones for surveillance and deliveries

Moreover, even though the potential for connected ports can span various applications, the report indicated the five use cases above are the most important, with automated RTG cranes, remote-controlled STS cranes, and cellular-connected AGVs among the most beneficial to ports.

Finally, Ericsson concudes that all use cases would pay for themselves in two to three years, and if all five are deployed together, they provide complete payback within two years and a return on investment of 178% by year five.

Beyond the tremendous financial benefits, connected ports create a substantial triple bottom line that includes increased productivity and efficiency, reduced costs, improved safety for workers, and a more responsible environmental impact.

The pre-condition for catching this “rising tide” is implementing fast, reliable, secure connectivity that only a 5G-ready private cellular network can provide.



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