Volkswagen to build private 5G networks from 2020; invites tenders from kit vendors
German automotive manufacturer Volkswagen will start construction of its own 5G mobile networks in 122 factories in Germany in 2020, according to a report in Wirtschaftswoche, the German business magazine.
Volkswagen, the largest automaker by worldwide sales, has issued a tender to network equipment vendors. Nokia and Ericsson are expected to be in the running.
Wirtschaftswoche also reported that German carmakers Daimler and BMW are keen on 5G frequencies in the 3.7-3.8 GHz spectrum, which is to be liberated for use by German enterprises by BNetzA, the German regulatory office for the electricity, gas, telecommunications, postal and railway markets.
Siemens and Bosch have already installed 5G test networks in selected plants, running in test spectrum from BNetzA, which will be relinquished and switched over when the 3.7-3.8 GHz spectrum is made available. Airbus and BASF are also seeking greater autonomy over in-factory cellular networks, it said.
Volkswagen, which also makes Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, and Škoda cars, was engaged in the 5G Arena at Hannover Messe 2019 at the start of the month, where it was showing production-line works running on a test network from Nokia.
German operator Deutsche Telekom told Enterprise IoT Insights at the event that only 20-30 enterprises in Germany will, in the end, seek to run their own network operations. “Large enterprises like BMW and Siemens might be ready to run their own networks, perhaps,” said Herbert Schüttler, vice president of 5G corporate customers at Deutsche Telekom.
“But there are lots of mid-sized manufacturers that don’t want anything to do with the running of mobile networks. In Germany, there might be 20, maybe 30, companies that will manage networks on their own. None of the others want to do it.”
Meanwhile, Volkswagen and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have said they will combine to develop an ‘industrial cloud’ to combine the data of all machines, plants and systems from all 122 facilities of the Volkswagen Group.
The pair signed a multi-year, global agreement for the project. The aim is to optimise production processes and bring productivity improvements, they said. Volkswagen will leverage AWS’s portfolio of internet of things (IoT), machine learning analytics and compute services.
Volkswagen said its global supply chain, linking 1,500 suppliers and partners across 30,000 locations, could also be integrated, as well.
The pair will standardise and network IT systems in 122 Volkswagen factories, covering machinery, equipment and systems. These have been disjointed, until now. This will provide the baseline for a new ‘digital production platform’ (DPP) from Volkswagen. All the Volkswagen plants and companies will “dock their system architectures” onto this platform.
The combination of data from all plants will provide new prospects for process optimisation, including more efficient control of material flow, slicker operation of machinery and equipment, and elimination of bottlenecks in supply. The new DPP platform will provide a springboard for smart robotics and data analysis, as well.
Oliver Blume, chairman at Porsche and board member at Volkswagen, commented: “With our global industry platform we want to create a growing industrial ecosystem with transparency and efficiency bringing benefits to all concerned.”
Andy Jassy, chief executive at AWS, said: “Our collaboration will have a profound impact on efficiency and quality in production throughout Volkswagen’s global supply chain, as Volkswagen gains access to the broadest and deepest cloud with the most functionality, the most innovation, the highest performance and security, and the largest community of partners and customers of any other infrastructure provider.”
The new industrial cloud is an open platform. Negotiations with “major industrial companies” to migrate to the platform are already in progress, the pair said.
Last week, in a parallel announcement, Microsoft and the BMW combined to foster easier, cheaper, faster innovation in the manufacturing sector. The pair have launched an ‘open manufacturing platform’ (OMP) to “break down” barriers with complex, proprietary systems that create data silos and slow productivity.
The initiative, built on Microsoft’s Azure industrial IoT platform, will see smart factory solutions developed and shared with OMP members in manufacturing sectors. It aims to provide a reference architecture with open source components, based on open standards. The goal is to accelerate investment returns and drive efficiencies.