5G in the Movement of Goods

The transport and logistics sector (including roads, ports, rail and maritime) is facing increasing pressure. Post Brexit and Covid-19, shipping items outside of the UK has become more complex, resulting in delayed and failed deliveries. More broadly, there is a major shortage of trained HGV drivers, with an estimated 50,000 vacancies in the UK alone. Automation in the industry is currently very limited and companies are losing manpower to manual tasks and failing to meet customer expectations of visibility across the supply chain. 

But 5G is here to provide an estimated $280Bn of benefits—digitalising processes, introducing autonomy and increasing accuracy, efficiency and worker safety. 5G networks can offer an unprecedented degree of insight allowing for the optimisation of services, including real-time kerbside parking availability (transforming last-mile deliveries), drone deliveries and full asset tracking within and across supply chains. 

Sure, IoT and fleet telemetry is already possible but the value of a 5G network lies in the density of devices it can support: it can mean the difference between one sensor per shipping container and a sensor on every item in the container, down to pallet and individual goods level.  

For connected transport and logistics services to work effectively, they need ubiquitous and reliable connectivity: 5G is here to provide that. 

How Could 5G Help to Transport Goods?


Innovate UK predicts that urban transport systems, air transport and ferries will be fully autonomous by 2050, which promises to deliver greater productivity without the limitations posed by human operators i.e. limited driver hours. While AVs are already operating on UK roads without 5G, the advanced V2X functionality and ubiquitous coverage that 5G brings is anticipated to be a huge enabler of autonomous vehicles at scale. What’s more, to be truly effective and safe in complex landscapes, autonomous vehicles will need to be able to detect obstacles, traffic and the driving intentions of surrounding cars. 5G — combined with artificial intelligence and cyber security — can achieve this; it uniquely offers utilisation of edge computing with a guaranteed transmission and low latency. 

Where has this been done?
Vehicle Platooning

Vehicle platooning is an intelligent transportation system (ITS) application in which autonomous freight vehicles drive in close cooperative formations. It improves aerodynamic effectiveness and performance, increases the capacity of roads and provides a more steady-state traffic flow, meaning goods can arrive at their destinations quicker. Low latency is essential to ensure this can be conducted safely, making 5G the ideal connectivity solution. This is expected to increase road capacity and efficiency, in addition to reducing fuel consumption, an important consideration given the volatility of fuel prices.

Where has this been done?

Automation promises to streamline logistics, but in fast-paced complex environments such as ports or even busy roads where you have humans and machines in close proximity, hazardous situations can quickly unfold. 5G’s ultra-low latency means that for the first time teleoperation is possible.   If the autonomous mode fails, or human assistance is required in a complicated scenario like a road blocked due to an accident, the ability to monitor and remotely operate a driverless vehicle becomes crucial.  With this capability, autonomous freight transportation becomes safer and easier to scale.

Where has this been done?
Connected Infrastructure

Connecting transport and logistics infrastructure can optimise the movement of freight, but in order to work effectively, ubiquitous and reliable connectivity is needed. 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency, along with the ability for private networks and network slicing, can support a revolution in the way we transport goods. From providing real-time driver assistance to accurately locating and managing the flow of every vessel in a port and prioritising freight traffic on our roads, 5G can boost the transport of goods across rail, road, water and air. 

Where has this been done?
Optimisation of Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery is arguably the most expensive and time-consuming element of transporting goods, comprising 40% of the overall shipping cost. The market for home deliveries is growing rapidly — due to a rise in e-commerce — and demands are becoming more complex. 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency can optimise transportation by facilitating kerbside parking availability solutions and enabling deliveries via autonomous vehicles, robots and drones. This reduces failed and late deliveries, alongside boosting profitability.

Where has this been done?

There’s a clear desire to make transport more environmentally sustainable with half of all consumers willing to pay more for travel costs to protect the environment. Drones are very environmentally friendly, and 5G massively increases their capability — specifically around the ability to remotely operate beyond the line of visual sight. But drones can be used for more than just deliveries, with the potential to facilitate better security in controlled spaces such as airports and ports.

Where has this been done?
Asset Track & Trace

5G promises greater goods control within and across supply chains, facilitating full tracking and tracing of assets. This is important for ensuring goods are where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there and allowing remedial action to be taken when they’re not. Currently, only 6 percent of logistics companies have full visibility of their supply chain from warehouse to the end customer. With increasing customer demands and pressure on margins, identifying issues with goods transit and delivery timescales sooner is also crucial for profitability — nearly 90 percent of logistics and shipping providers believe the lack of supply visibility is the biggest challenge facing the sector today. 

Where has this been done?
Asset Condition Monitoring

The use of 5G-enabled private networks and IoT sensors allow logistics firms to track, trace and record the status of their freight (including the ability to monitor shipping conditions such as temperature and ensure goods remain intact). This is essential for meeting customer expectations, especially in the shipping of high-value freight or perishable goods such as food or medicines. 

When will this be available? View our predicted timeline here.

Where has this been done?
Automation to Enhance Worker Safety

The transportation of goods presents a number of hazardous environments for workers. 5G technology is here to enhance existing safety precautions and standards, with its ability to unlock next-level automation. From automated delivery pods to AI-assisted cameras and drones, 5G networks can minimise risks to workers — ensuring the fluid movement of goods without incident.

Where has this been done?
Enhanced Security

Cargo theft and loss is a significant problem that costs the marine industry alone billions of dollars each year. With 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency, it’s now possible to enhance security across sites through AI-monitored ultra-high-definition video surveillance and even automated or remotely operated drones that can be flown beyond the line of visual sight. Saving you time, money and protecting your reputation with customers.

Where has this been done?
Border Control Optimisation

Crossing the UK’s borders and coordinating import and export is the single biggest challenge for freight and logistics organisations in the UK. The sheer volume of processing and checks — much of which is still paper-based — takes up valuable time, eats into margins, and increases carbon footprint. Multiple shipments are often bundled into single containers for maximum efficiency, but this can lead to a shipment being delayed if a single organisation’s paperwork is incorrect. 5G’s ability to digitise these processes is desperately needed. 

When will this be available? View our predicted timeline here.

Where has this been done?
Intelligent Transport Systems

From V2X to smart junctions and traffic lights, 5G can enable intelligent transport systems to optimise travel flow, reduce congestion and enable more coordinated movement of vehicles. Such functionality can be put to good use in private environments including airports and ports — ensuring the most efficient movement of goods through areas. Intelligent transport systems require a coordinated framework, with features that support ultra-low latency for warning signals, higher data rates for sharing sensory data between vehicles and infrastructure, high mobility, high reliability, as well as scalability. 5G is the obvious choice.

Where has this been done?

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