Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UK sees world’s first Wifi 6 IoT trial

Steve Rogerson
May 1, 2019



The world’s first Wifi 6 IoT trial took place in the UK last month. The Wireless Broadband Alliance carried out the industrial enterprise and IoT trial with Mettis Aerospace, a manufacturer of precision-forged, machined and sub-assembled components for the aerospace and defence industry.
 
This will lead to full-scale trail at the site that will start later this year.
 
Mettis will work with WBA members to test several use cases on a Wifi 6 network at its 110,000 square metre West Midlands facility. The trial, the first of a series of global trials, will enable the use of augmented reality, real-time monitoring of equipment, and other applications in an enterprise network environment designed to digitise Mettis’ production line. Mettis Aerospace is a key supplier for organisations such as Airbus, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.
 
“We’re delighted to be the first aerospace company to trial Wifi 6,” said Dave Green (pictured), head of IT for Mettis Aerospace. “By working with the WBA, we’re able to gain access to dozens of leading vendors and operators in the wifi arena. Industrial manufacturers work in incredibly complex environments, which can make cellular technologies challenging to deploy and operate effectively. We believe that Wifi 6 has a significant role to play within the 5G ecosystem, enabling a range of, cost-effective, industrial applications.”
 
The Mettis Aerospace environment is challenging from a connectivity perspective, with a large geography to be covered, and industrial radio interference that can disrupt signals. Some applications will require high bandwidth, others low latency and mission critical applications need clear prioritisation for data. Wifi 6 is well positioned to support the provision of cost-effective enterprise-level connectivity in this industrial environment, to these standards using the latest security capabilities.
 
The West Midlands region, under the leadership of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), was selected to be the UK’s 5G testbed for manufacturing and security by the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. This trial will demonstrate the role that Wifi 6 has to play in the broader 5G ecosystem.
 
“Wifi 6 is a critical component for the future of connectivity for enterprises, operators and consumers,” said Tiago Rodrigues, general manager of the WBA. “The work of Mettis Aerospace, the WBA and its members will clearly illustrate the role that Wifi 6 has to play. We’re delighted to be working with Mettis Aerospace and are grateful to the Worcestershire LEP for inviting us to collaborate with them to demonstrate the capabilities and promote the convergence of 5G and Wifi 6 in heterogeneous networks. This first trial will serve as an example to industrial manufacturers around the world who are embracing the move to Industry 4.0 about the capabilities to deliver transformation with Wifi 6.”
 
Mark Stansfield, chair of the Worcestershire LEP, added: "We see 5G and Wifi 6 as complementary technologies that will revolutionise industry on a regional, national and global scale. We recently announced the UK's first live 5G factory trials in Worcestershire, in a landmark step towards the creation of smart factories, and it's fantastic to also see the world's first Wifi 6 industrial IoT trial go live in the county. This is an important step in the evolution of next generation technologies that will completely transform UK industry and an important step in establishing Worcestershire as an exemplar for manufacturing best practice for the UK and wider afield."
 
The full trial is being managed by the WBA and Mettis Aerospace, and supported by WBA members including British Telecom, Boingo, Broadcom, BSG Wireless, CableLabs, Cisco, HPE Aruba and Intel. It is scheduled to launch in the second half of 2019.
 
“Wifi 6 has inherent capabilities that enables wireless to be more deterministic, which is important for mission-critical IoT assets being used in manufacturing automation,” said Matt MacPherson, CTO for wireless at Cisco. “When we look at mission-critical IoT programmes, and accelerating digitisation initiatives, we also need to keep security top of mind. The ability to enforce policy through Wifi 6 scheduling and segmentation means much better control over these environments. We are delighted to be supporting the Mettis trial and to demonstrate the power of Wifi 6 in the very challenging environments typical to Industry 4.0 use cases.”
 
Gabriel Desjardins, director of marketing for the wireless communications and connectivity division at Broadcom, added: “We’re excited and looking forward to supporting the world's first Wifi 6 IoT trial led by the Wireless Broadband Alliance and Mettis Aerospace. We are confident that Wifi 6 technology will demonstrate exceptional performance and reliability metrics during this real-world deployment and deliver unprecedented value to the broader industry.”
 
And David Reeder, vice president at Accuris Networks, said: “Accuris Networks is excited to work with the WBA to continue demonstrating practical applications of how Wifi 6 can continue to transform Industry 4.0 and similar verticals which require best-in-class security, significant broadband data rates and seamless user experience.”