Lufthansa Technik’s Private 5G Network: In-depth Outcomes and Outlook

Lufthansa Technik began operating its own 5G campus network based on the Release 15 standard more than two years ago at its Hamburg site, first standalone outside of Asia. This allows them to tackle data-intensive tasks and work more efficiently. We spoke with Dr. Claudius Noack, an IT consultant and technology scout with Lufthansa Industry Solutions, about the use cases, implementation process, reasons behind 5G, using own spectrum, deployment partners, outcomes, outlook, and key points to keep in mind while enterprises are deploying their own private 5G network.
Lufthansa Technik's Private 5G Network | TeckNexus 5G Magazine for Manufacturing Magazine

Lufthansa Technik’s private 5G network for virtual table inspection and Aircraft cabin outfitting

Lufthansa Technik began operating its own 5G campus network based on the Release 15 standard more than two years ago at its Hamburg site, first standalone outside of Asia. This allows them to tackle data-intensive tasks and work more efficiently. We spoke with Dr. Claudius Noack, an IT consultant and technology scout with Lufthansa Industry Solutions, about the use cases, implementation process, reasons behind 5G, using own spectrum, deployment partners, outcomes, outlook, and key points to keep in mind while enterprises are deploying their own private 5G network.

What were the 5G Use Cases implemented by Lufthansa Technik?

We implemented two use cases with 5G technology at Lufthansa Technik’s Hamburg site. The two use cases are in one aircraft hangar and one engine overhaul shop. Both use cases went live in early 2020 (one in Jan and another in Feb).

Use Case 1: Virtual Table Inspection

During an overhaul, aircraft engines are almost entirely disassembled, with each individual part thoroughly inspected separately by Lufthansa Technik’s experts. The old standard process for this so-called “table inspection” called for customers to travel to Hamburg in order to personally attend these part inspections and jointly discuss their sometimes costly repair decisions on-site.

The private 5G network, offering “industrial-grade” reliability, alongside ring-fenced latency and bandwidth performance, now removes the need for customers to physically attend the inspection; instead, they can virtually attend the engine overhauls taking place in Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg via live high-definition video feeds. Customers are guided through the engine shop using a third-party mobile device that provides real-time, high-resolution video streaming with mechanics and engineers.

This allows virtual inspection of dismantled parts enabling joint decision-making about inspected components. We will configure and adapt the network to meet the project’s needs. i.e., accommodate demanding upload and download speeds and adequate computing power to handle the processing requirements of live transmission for remote high-resolution screen inspection calls.

Use Case 2: Aircraft Cabin Outfitting

The focus of this use case was on further streamlining coordination processes even if the requirements are completely different. The idea was to simplify the process of furnishing the aircraft cabins. In the still empty aircraft fuselage, the 3D design data of cabin monuments can now be visualized via augmented reality together with the current installation situation in the aircraft. This enables the technicians to identify necessary adjustments more quickly and discuss the necessary measures with the engineers via video conference.

This would enable technicians to mix office-based digital twins with workshop-based augmented reality to build cabin interiors. This was not possible before launching the campus network, as the transfer of the extensive CAD data required high bandwidths, even inside the parked aircraft. Despite its very positive outcome, this use case was discontinued as planned after the several-month test phase expired.

What were some of the major considerations and the overall procedure?

Finding concrete use cases

In the beginning, is the use case analysis. Lufthansa Technik was very open to possible potential right from the start. So for us, the initial focus was on finding concrete use cases to solve connectivity problems with what 5G was able to offer at that time. We worked closely with the innovation department and strictly sounded out and prioritized according to feasibility and added value.

Decide 5G Technology partner for use cases

The next step was to decide which 5G partner with its technology was most suitable for the use cases. Does the company need the support of a network operator? Or is cooperation with a pure equipment supplier sufficient?

Frequencies: Use existing or apply for own?

Depending on the application, companies are faced with the decision of either relying on the existing frequencies of a network operator or reserving and applying for their own frequencies. If the project depends on constantly high data throughput, the choice should be made to use its own frequencies, which are also particularly secure. However, companies must apply for these frequencies at the Federal Network Agency.

This is a procedure in which external expertise should definitely be obtained. Applicants must provide credible assurance that they need the frequencies and must explain which projects they intend to solve with the technology. This step also involves coordination with direct neighbors and other stakeholders. Overall, this is a lengthy process and can tie up capacity over several weeks. Those responsible should be aware of this at the beginning of the project.

It is important to integrate different contact persons in the company into the project team at an early stage – from IT experts, and electricians to caretakers.

Support during rollout

Finally, support during the rollout of the project is advisable. Without checklists or corresponding experience values, it is possible that a lot of time will be lost, depending on the scope of the use case.

Why 5G?

Both projects have a very high demand for bandwidth for wireless data transmission and require latency constantly below 100ms, which could not be covered adequately by the 4G and Wi-Fi technologies. The public 4G upload rate was often no longer sufficient for high-resolution video streams because public indoor coverage is not often as good as outdoor coverage because of shielding etc. The problem with Wi-Fi is that the connection might drop between access points. The Wi-Fi standard is not designed for a change of location between individual cells, which previously often led to connection terminations.

This results in the video stream dropping out and the customer’s important repair decision is hampered by a sudden lack of transparency. For Wi-Fi 6, we haven’t seen any practical implementation in the past. 5G offers data transmission of up to 10 Gbps compared to a maximum of 1Gbps for 4G/LTE. We achieved low latency of 7ms in the 5G SA network, which is not 1ms – but a lot better than Wi-Fi. At times, the value of latency was higher than 7ms, which is important to note.

When talking about 5G projects, one thing is important to us: There is no “5G for the sake of 5G”

What was the rationale for using your own spectrum?

For both the use cases, we decided to use our own frequencies, the 3.7-3.8 GHz band which German regulator BNetzA is leasing for dedicated enterprise usage in the country. Instead of going to Vodafone Germany for a proto-slice of its 5G network.

This enabled higher security and a completely free configuration, which allows Lufthansa Technik’s own 5G networks to be adapted exactly to the requirements of the respective evaluation projects & use cases, for example in the ratio of upload and download bandwidth.

Our objective was to evaluate 5G technology in general, and not just the providers of it. We want to mainly know what the benefits of 5G will be to our company. These are two completely different use cases, with totally independent networks and hardware. They are being completely managed by our own IT teams. We also used our own antennas and servers for both use cases. As shown below, ‘LH-Technik’, is the network provider in the handset display. This network can only be accessed by Lufthansa Technik.

What has been the outcome of these initiatives thus far? Did 5G live up to the hype?

5G helped with remote inspections during Covid-19 lockdown.

The private 5G networks provide a stable and secure connection for this important use case, which has been live for almost 24 months now. It enables the technicians to consult with airlines on engine maintenance and refit aircraft cabins remotely. 5G SA performs less well than advertised, never hitting the 1ms latency benchmark the market has promised; but 7ms on one side and 9ms on the other, as the firm is managing in Hamburg, is quite good enough. The main thing was to have a highly-reliable, high-quality, real-time video stream – which we can roam with across an 8,000 square metre site. It is the perfect lockdown solution, in terms of travel, logistics, and associated costs; the reduced environmental impact might be calculated, too.

The first call to the customer, and they said, ‘We have never had such a stable, crystal-clear feed, before’. So they were really happy. We thought we might use a big industrial 5G use case like this for 50 percent of inspections, perhaps. But we installed it in January, and Covid-19 came to Hamburg in March, and all travel stopped. So, suddenly, we were doing all inspections remotely.

If we had not set up that network, we would not have been able to do those engine inspections in this manner. 5G kept that use case alive – that is the business case.

Read the complete article in the 5G Magazine

Featured Articles

  • All
  • 2022 Predictions
  • 2023 Predictions
  • 5G Edge
  • 5G for Manufacturing
  • 5G for Transportation
  • 5G Towers
  • Featured
  • Foundation
  • Guest
  • Leaders
  • Open RAN | 2021
  • Open RAN | 2022
  • Private Networks | 2021
  • Private Networks | 2022
  • Security
  • Telco Cloud
All
  • All
  • 2022 Predictions
  • 2023 Predictions
  • 5G Edge
  • 5G for Manufacturing
  • 5G for Transportation
  • 5G Towers
  • Featured
  • Foundation
  • Guest
  • Leaders
  • Open RAN | 2021
  • Open RAN | 2022
  • Private Networks | 2021
  • Private Networks | 2022
  • Security
  • Telco Cloud
System Integrators | Leading the industry to a future-proof network ecosystem | TechM - TeckNexus
2023 Predictions5G

System Integrators | Leading the industry to a future-proof network ecosystem | TechM

Four ways the telco industry will change in 2023 | AWS - TeckNexus
2023 Predictions5G

Four ways the telco industry will change in 2023 | AWS

Five reasons private mobile network security will ascend the CISO priority list in 2023 - OneLayer | TeckNexus
2023 Predictions5G

Five reasons private mobile network security will ascend the CISO priority list in 2023 | OneLayer

Use Cases

  • All
  • Aerospace and Defense
  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Datacenter
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Financials
  • HealthCare
  • Industrial Automation
  • Innovation Hub
  • Manufacturing
  • Media and Broadcast
  • Mining
  • Ports
  • Public sector
  • Retail
  • Smart Cities
  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • University Campus
All
  • All
  • Aerospace and Defense
  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Datacenter
  • Energy & Utilities
  • Financials
  • HealthCare
  • Industrial Automation
  • Innovation Hub
  • Manufacturing
  • Media and Broadcast
  • Mining
  • Ports
  • Public sector
  • Retail
  • Smart Cities
  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • University Campus

Recent News

Scroll to Top