Ford embracing 5G for real-time machine control, remote support
Vodafone Business deploying Ford’s private 5G network with U.K. government backing
As part of a U.K. government 5G investment program aimed at fostering digital transformation of industries, Vodafone Business announced it will build a private 5G wireless network at automaker Ford’s campus in Dunton. A second network in Cambridge will support welding research firm TWI.
The private 5G network in Dunton is planned to be up-and-running later this year at the Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering (E:PriME) facility. Vodafone Business called out support for “real-time control, analysis and remote expert support, ensuring new manufacturing processes are shop floor-ready.” A Vodafone spokesperson told Enterprise IoT Insights that Ericsson is providing core and radio access network equipment; the network operates in 3.5 GHz TDD spectrum.
Specifically, Ford will use 5G to connect welding machines used in production of electric vehicles; the automaker said approximately 1,000 welds are needed to put together batteries and motors used in electric vehicle; this equates to the creation of some 500,000 data points per minute. “Connecting the data with experts, such as TWI and manufacturers, is critical if processes are to develop at the same rate as these innovative products demand,” per a press statement.
Ford Project Lead Chris White sketched the long-term goal of 5G for factory operations: “Connecting today’s shop floor requires significant time and investment. Present technology can be the limiting factor in reconfiguring and deploying next-gen manufacturing systems. 5G presents the opportunity to transform the speed of launch and flexibility of present manufacturing facilities, moving us towards tomorrow’s plants connected to remote expert support and artificial intelligence.”
The U.K. government has invested hundreds of millions of pounds into various 5G projects, including establishing testbeds at the University of Surrey, the University of Bristol and King’s College London. Support for the Ford/Vodafone 5G private network deployment came out of a £65 million funding pool.
“We’re determined to harness this revolutionary technology to boost the productivity and growth of U.K. industries,” according to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden. “We want Britain to be a world leader in 5G, and since 2017 the government has invested millions in ground-breaking testbeds and trials across the country to achieve this.”
Last year Vodafone, as well as compatriot service providers, received mid-band 5G spectrum; Vodafone won at auction 50 megahertz in the 3.4 GHz band.
In the U.K, Vodafone has turned up 5G in a number of areas, including Belfast , Edinburgh and Leeds. The telco also announced it has expanded 5G in greater Manchester and set up 5G roaming in five Irish locations–Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
Speaking of the work with Ford, Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business, said: “5G mobile private networks act as a springboard for organizations, allowing them to rethink the way they do business. In this case, MPN technology makes the factory of the future possible. It allows machines and computing power to coordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety. We’re excited to help Ford plan for the future of its business.”