Private 5G is ‘only’ way for Industry 4.0 – first private 5G network goes live in UK with BT
UK telecoms provider BT has been appointed as the lead technology partner for the Worcestershire 5G Testbed (W5G), billed as the UK’s first live private 5G network. Swedish vendor Ericsson is supplying the 5G infrastructure for the smart manufacturing project, at the Worcester Bosch factory and Malvern Hills Science Park.
BT, which runs the EE mobile network in the UK, said “private 5G” is the only way to deliver flexible and smart manufacturing. The company has been involved since the inception of the project two years ago; it called its new appointment an “acceleration” of the UK’s Industry 4.0 agenda. The 5G network is now live said, said BT, and under its stewardship.
The new 5G installation in Worcester, in the West Midlands, will support all the latest industrial IoT tech (and watchwords), including sensors, wearables, data analytics, robotics, augmented reality, plus variously localised edge, multi-access edge (MEC), and cloud-based computing.
The project seeks to establish a blueprint for Industry 4.0 in the UK, using wide-band cellular in the Worcester Bosch factory as the springboard for “intelligent, dynamic and fully automated” manufacturing processes. The UK government wants partners in the project to use the Worcester Bosch model to boost productivity in the region.
Gerry McQuade, chief executive of the company’s enterprise business, said: “We’re creating a smart factory where machines can learn and adapt to changes on the factory floor as they happen, and make instant, autonomous decisions to optimise the production line.
“This is only possible by harnessing 5G private networks, IoT, data analytics, and mobile edge computing. BT’s role is in making these technologies work in perfect harmony to gather and interpret the vast volumes of data generated by connected machines and turning this into real-time and actionable insight.”
BT said it will bring the “scale and expertise” to extend the project’s benefits to the wider UK manufacturing sector. It referenced aerospace, in particular, as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at large. The firm will also use the project to better understand how to optimise private networking, edge computing, and data analytics “for the fourth industrial revolution.”
BT is looking to leverage its innovation unit EE Mobile Labs in Borehamwood, north of London to support Ericsson in the management of the 5G radio and core networks, plus various edge infrastructure. BT stated: “The data driven solutions created through the effective combination of these technologies will transform manufacturing and other industries nationally.”
Worcester Bosch said factory output is up by two per cent since the 5G network was switched on. The W5G collective is looking for more local companies to get involved, it said.
Carl Arntzen, chief executive at Worcester Bosch, commented: “We have learnt an awful lot within the W5G Testbed, both about the 5G network itself, but most importantly about the skills and competencies we need in-house, and what data to stream in order to develop a real-time understanding of the behaviour of various machines.
“We are very eager to continue this learning and are confident we can travel much further on this journey, deliver the productivity gains we predicted, and go much further in developing the smart factory of the future. We intend to play a key role in making the fourth industrial revolution a reality.”
The W5G setup is not the only government-backed private 5G arrangement in the UK. The UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has just revealed an additional £3.8 million of funding for the £9 million 5G ENCODE initiative in Bristol, in the UK’s southwest. 5G ENCODE is led by Zeetta Networks, and also involves Telefonica, Siemens, and Toshiba, among a consortium of 10 companies. It is presented as the UK’s largest trial of industrial 5G.
The project will investigate three key industrial 5G use cases to improve productivity and effectiveness of composite design and manufacture: interactive augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR); asset tracking across multiple sites and locations; and industrial system management. It will make use of slicing technologies from Zeetta Networks for use with private and public networks under construction at the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol.