Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Campus Networks

Let’s start with the basics. What is a campus network, anyway?

It’s an exclusive mobile network – currently LTE and evolving to 5G — with coverage across a specific, limited area (2 km², for example) which offers exclusive radio resources and dedicated core network elements. Unlike normal networks, they may offer users special performance and quality parameters, such as a faster, zero-latency transfer of larger data sets. 

For example, think about Automated Guided Vehicles or AGVs. Currently, they either use wifi (which is not as robust or reliable as the alternative) or they use magnetic tape for a guided path — even worse. With Campus Networks, the connection is stronger, AGVs can communicate with each other, for example, to avoid obstacles (before they even “see” them – think: like when G Maps reroutes you to avoid a traffic jam). On top of this, 5G would improve the latency. 

OK, got it. But where would we usually find a campus network?

So, the obvious use case for this is in industry, since you often need connectivity at a particularly high level to support production processes  — like in a factory, for example. 

Robotic arm picking parcel from conveyor to AGV (Automatic guided vehicle). Monitor of the manufacture line showing lines’ process information. 3D rendering image.

It’s basically a dream come true for production, because you can use it for tasks which are either time-consuming or too complicated to leave to human labour, like tracking the pallets in the warehouse, tracking forklifts, using autonomous vehicles more efficiently by enabling indoor-outdoor steering, tracking products while they’re on assembly lines, measuring how resources and tools are used and remote maintenance of the machines and robots thanks to augmented reality.

But is it only found in factory-type settings?

No, not at all! Campus networks are also popular in airports or harbours, where 5G-capable networks support the use of autonomous driving vehicles.  It also provides an added layer of security, helping to protect important and sensitive data because data doesn’t leave the campus – it’s processed close to the location in a private edge cloud. 

This all makes sense, but it feels like many of the advantages you’re outlining are 5G-specific. What’s the difference between campus networks with 5G and those without?

Campus networks bring certain benefits to the user (e.g. a high level of data security) within a defined area. 2G, 3G, the currently widely-used 4G and the more recent introduction of 5G all refer to tech allowing data to be transmitted at a certain speed. 5G is the next step in the evolution of data transfer speed and can (but does not have to) be used in a campus network service. 

Smart factory with AGV, robot carrier, 3D printers and robotic picking system. 3D rendering image.

So, one way of thinking about it is like this: the campus network is the car and 5G is the type of engine. A car will run better on a superior engine but 5G’s still just one part of a larger structure, basically.

So if it isn’t just powered by 5G, what other sorts of technology are essential for campus networks?

Edge Computing is one of them — it’s a new concept for server computing. Instead of being located in a remote, centralized data center, the computing power is based close by – on the edge of the cellular network, near the end user. This solution eliminates the need to transfer all information to a distant cloud, allowing local buffering and compression. Due to this low latency, it creates opportunities for making truly interactive solutions.

A good example of this is surgery – currently doctors aren’t able to operate on patients from remote destinations using robots because timings are so crucial — even a delay of a second when they perform heart surgery could have serious consequences. If doctors were to perform surgery now via a 4G network there would always be a delay between the action (performed by the doctor) and the reaction (performed by the robot) – a few milliseconds – that could harm the patient. With 5G, there will be no delay between the command and robot’s reaction to it. This is also closely related to campus networks solutions, where a lack of delay is crucial.

Modern warehouse equipped with robotic arm, drone and robot carriers. Modern delivery center concept. 3D rendering image.

With Edge you increase the capacity, data security and reduce the cost of doing business with this technology. Edge Computing, in conjunction with the 5G network, will boost industries such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and drones as well as gaming related fields such as digital entertainment and virtual reality. 

When will it be commercially available? 

It’s already commercially available in Germany and will be extended to the rest of Deutsche Telekom’s footprint soon! 

How can I start working with a campus network?

If you want to commission a campus network for your workplace, we would need up to six months to provide you with it. This is a ballpark figure — the exact time needed for installation obviously depends on individual conditions that would first need to be checked.

What about if I can’t wait that long?

We understand your excitement! Add a trip to Poland to your post-lockdown wishlist because you’ll be able to experience campus networks at Astor Robotics Center in Krakow in June 2020, when we’ll be running the hub4Industry program there. One of the program’s goals is to implement innovative solutions specifically designed for the industry sector that take advantage of campus networks.