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5G has “come of age”.
Here’s why and how the travel & transport industry should take notice.

Anastasia Karatrantou
Jan 25, 2024

In the lead-up to our ‘Smoothing the way to frictionless travel’ event, we’re unpacking the hot topics, challenges, and opportunities in the travel & transport industry today. In this latest instalment, Anastasia Karatrantou, Senior Business Development Manager, 5G & Edge at Capgemini, explains the key benefits of 5G, why now is the right time to adopt it, and how to go about doing so.

The travel and transport sector is on the forefront of digitisation, facing a plethora of challenges and an imperative to move to a more sustainable mode of operation. The aviation and maritime industries have aging infrastructure with high costs of maintenance, legacy, and diverse technological footprints that need to be adapted to the new, smart, immersive, and autonomous applications of Industry 4.0. Similarly, rail and roads need to adopt flexibility and accommodate the increasing post-pandemic mobile nature of living while modernising infrastructure in line with regulation and interoperability needs. All this, while the sector needs to maintain a constant and ever more demanding satisfactory customer experience.  

In this complex landscape of digital and smart technologies, where every technology matters and can pivot the scale towards operational efficiencies, we often find our clients not giving the connectivity layer the right amount of attention that it requires, viewing it as just a pipe in their industrial setup. Given the increasing number of connected devices, robotics, drones, the automation of mundane tasks and the preventative nature of operation, networking infrastructure could be either the weakest link in the stack or an accelerator for digitisation at scale.  

5G combined with Edge Computing can offer that convergence platform to unify a plethora of systems, creating a high-performing, highly reliable, secure-by-design and scalable system. This is especially important as the industry is getting closer to replacing the obsolete Tetra technologies that are so far being used for private critical communications. 

But let’s have a look at the feedback and experiences on 5G adoption so far… 

The travel & transport sector is one of the early adopters of 5G private networks. While and amongst others, airports and ports are already demonstrating results from their early trials, still adoption is in its infancy and accompanied by a debate on the ROI. Zooming in on those early trials, the applied use cases belong to the Mobile Broadband communications category, with video communications benefiting the most. In parallel, it is observed that only a couple of use-cases are deployed and hence leaving the 5G network as yet another communications technology to be introduced on the floor and in the IT/OT bill. It’s therefore expected to be asking why invest so much money for something that’s just ok

But 5G has now “come of age” and is bringing to life massive machine-type and ultra-reliable and low latency communications. There is a plethora of advanced industrial features that will be of considerable value to travel & transport businesses – like time-sensitive networking, the ability to directly connect machine to machine, and 5G RedCap. We recommend that now is a very good time to take it seriously. 

What opportunities does 5G present for the travel & transport industry? 

The benefits that 5G brings come from the combination of cost savings and new capability introduction. Namely, large and complex industrial environments feature multiple connectivity technologies. 5G can rationalise the footprint and contribute to an operational cost reduction by replacing legacy or purpose-build with a universal connectivity solution. In parallel, productivity improves by enabling remote collaboration to resolve business-critical matters, training through immersive solutions and availability of specialists when they are required through Augmented Reality (AR). The capability to interconnect and process in real-time such an amass of data allows the business to leverage and benefit further from insights coming from machinery, tooling, and infrastructure, contributing to a productivity improvement for assets too.   

Especially for the large estates of airports and seaports, operators can automate and fault-proof surveillance by using drones or video analytics, without restrictive black holes where the network doesn’t provide any coverage, and handle issues remotely. Similarly, for the complex maintenance operations for rail. Winding through vast areas of the country, there is considerably low connectivity across the railway network, which just doesn’t meet the new standards of connectivity in our hybrid working world.  

Thinking a few years ahead, 5G could open up the possibility for all key actors in the travel & transport sector to leverage and further monetise this infrastructure with new business models and infrastructure sharing with key tenants and players in the ecosystem. 

5G can also play a role in helping you decarbonise your operations to establish a more sustainable footprint. It’s an inherently greener network, in the sense that it is designed to be more energy-efficient and offers an improved spectral efficiency to its predecessors. In addition, it requires less physical infrastructure than popular alternatives and therefore requires less resources to run. In addition, as 5G is ideal for Industrial Automation use-cases, it indirectly contributes to a greener footprint by reducing carbon emissions in industrial operations. 

All things considered, 5G’s most competitive benefit is that it creates a future-proof connectivity infrastructure with always predictable and dependable performance, scaling as the over-the-top digital demands scale. 

Why aren’t more businesses implementing 5G already? 

The compelling opportunity of 5G doesn’t come without challenges.  

Navigating existing ecosystems, new partners, can make adopting 5G a bit of a puzzle. In Capgemini Research Institute’s ‘Accelerating the 5G revolution’ report,we revealed the top challenges for senior executives from industrial organisations holding back more widespread implementation were:

  • Integrating 5G networks with existing networks and IT systems (76%)
  • Lack of access to the 5G and edge application ecosystems (72%)
  • And, managing a multi-vendor environment (69%)  

Clients also struggle with identifying the right opportunities and operationalising them. While there is an executive demand to leverage 5G, our research found 55% of industrial organisations are having difficulties with defining 5G use cases and estimating their Return on Investment (ROI). Results also showed 69% felt challenges with adapting business operations with 5G use cases as the key barrier to implementation. They’re grappling with questions like: What are the use cases that can generate an immediate business impact and a satisfactory enough ROI? Are there applications viable only through 5G connectivity? How can the use cases be integrated with existing operations?

So, how do we get there? 

  1. Start with an evaluation and assessment of the technology before a hands-on experience.
    Often customers adopt a 5G trial based on one or two use-cases. This creates a gap for the desired ROI. Contrary to that, we recommend examining the overall digital transformation roadmap and identifying not only killer use-cases but also services that can benefit from an advanced network, hence creating compound benefits. What is also critical is examining how infrastructure can be simplified and components with a narrow impact can be replaced.  
  2. Identify the best timing. Trialling a new technology is critical during which period we need to monitor KPIs, assess progress, then help the client move to standardisation, industrialisation, and scaling of the solution. In this journey, we consider adjacent technologies coming end of life and a gradual expansion of 5G to ensure a continuous improving TCO and ROI.  
  3. Identify how the investment should come. 5G sits between the IT and the OT worlds and responsibilities and technical benefits are shared.  
  4. Explore the best way to deploy the technology for your business outcomes. What is your digital transformation roadmap and how does 5G fit in it? This is where Capgemini’s deep industry expertise and partnerships can help; depending on the need, we can bring a personalised solution rather than off-the-shelf. We can tailor a solution to the enterprise and move from assessment and evaluation to experimentation and adoption.

In summary, we strive to help our clients adopt 5G for long-term benefits, and can offer four key enablers: 

  • ROI-focused business case 
  • Pre-integrated infrastructure solutions 
  • Customisable Industry 4.0 applications 
  • End-to-end ecosystem orchestration and integration 

Smoothing the way to frictionless travel 

Key to meeting any common challenge head-on is to unite and start sharing. We believe there is a great opportunity for the industry to collaborate, think, and reflect with like-minded peers, focusing on some key opportunities facing the industry, including: sustainability, customer experience, multi-modal transport, intelligent industry, and 5G. 

You have the opportunity to explore these industry themes at our exclusive breakfast workshop on Thursday 1st February 8am – 12pm. 

Click here to register now as spaces are limited! 

Hear more from our experts in the Smoothing the way to frictionless travel blog series, below: 

Listen, understand, and build a relationship with your passengers to improve their customer experience by Dominic Corrigan – Engagement Director. 

Turning data into information is key to paving the way for ‘frictionless travel’. Here’s how to start by Mike Dwyer – VP & Head of the UK Intelligent Industry CoEx.

Anastasia Karatrantou

Senior Manager, 5G & Edge Business Development, Capgemini Group
“5G creates the opportunity to address industrial networks as an asset rather than a commodity—a concept that is quite often overlooked. 5G can deliver the predictable and highly reliable performance that is required to power all applications that are smart, immersive, and autonomous, helping companies deliver on the promise of Intelligent Industry.”