Integrator Smart Mobile Labs tees-up first German private 5G SA system – with Nokia
German system integrator Smart Mobile Labs is working with Nokia to deploy a private 5G network at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany, according to the Finnish vendor. It called the new deployment “the first true” 5G standalone (SA) campus network in Germany – or at least the first 5G SA network in the country using Nokia’s private cellular system.
Whether it is important or not, there appears to be some confusion only because rival system integrator Siticom last week claimed to have deployed a private 5G SA network at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) in Germany, alongside a deal to use open radio access network (RAN) hardware from US-based Airspan Networks in further private 5G deployments in ‘vertical’ spectrum in Germany.
Whatever the truth of it, and whoever is first, the new 5G SA installation follows a similar profile, around practical academic-led research into industrial 5G use cases.
For its part, Smart Mobile Labs has worked with a number of enterprises in Germany to build private LTE and 5G networks using the dedicated 3.7-3.8 GHz band, which the government has made available to national enterprises for cellular-based Industry 4.0 projects. German regulator BNetzA said last month it had so far issued 74 local licences to enterprises for LTE and 5G infrastructure.
Bosch, Siemens, Lufthansa, and BMW have all piled into this new ‘vertical’ band. The liberalisation of 5G spectrum for industry in Germany, as well as in other industrial nations, has created an intriguing new dynamic around telecoms provision, and raised questions about the role of traditional operators in service of the gathering Industry 4.0 movement.
Smart Mobile Labs has supplied the “first 5G campus networks to many customers in 2020”, according to a statement from Nokia. The new deployment with the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK) is a “campus-wide” 5G SA setup, which uses Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) platform, billed as a cloud-based “Netflix-style” service that bundles in a number of Industry 4.0 applications alongside.
Smart Mobile Labs won a public tender for five campus networks at the TUK technology and industry research campus. The work is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, as part of the new ‘5G-Kaiserslautern’ project, which will investigate a number of 5G-enabled industrial use cases.
The contract runs for three years, initially. The system will also cover the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the ‘Hofgut Neumühle’ research farm, within the campus boundaries.
Professor Hans Schotten, coordinator of the 5G-Kaiserslautern project at TUK, said the deployment creates a “controlled environment” for TUK researchers to explore the value of critical-grade 5G in industrial use cases. Areas of interest include industrial automation and logistics, construction, and agriculture, he said.
He commented: “The networks will also be applied to existing university-based research projects, as well as technology platform and software development. These efforts will be carried out both independently and in collaboration with a range of other stakeholders and industry partners.”
Rüdiger Hnyk, chief product officer at Smart Mobile Labs, said: “This next-generation private wireless network will be the basis for many future use cases such as self-driving cars, drone control and real-time video applications for logistics and mobility services, as well as production and agriculture scenarios.”
The 5G SA version of Nokia’s DAC was released in July, alongside a 5G SA equivalent of its full-fat Modular Private Wireless (MPW) private cellular system. The DAC solution is geared towards quick-fire local-area deployments; the MPW solution is for larger-scale private cellular installations. It also announced a contract with the mining division of Swedish tool manufacturer Sandvik for deployment of a 5G SA network at its test mine in Tampere, in Finland.
The Finnish vendor claims to have more than 180 private wireless enterprise customers worldwide; 30-odd engagements are for industrial 5G networks, including recent deals with the likes of German rail firm Deutsche Bahn, German airline services provider Lufthansa Technik, and Japanese car maker Toyota. Nokia has been running trials with customers, including mobile operator partners, since the start of 2020.
It has confirmed distribution deals for its DAC product with US carriers AT&T and Verizon in the last week, for domestic and international Industry 4.0 tie-ups, respectively. AT&T is offering both an equivalent plug-and-play system for private LTE from rival Ericsson, at the same time.
Raghav Sahgal, president of Nokia’s enterprise unit, said: “As one of the leading research organizations in Germany with a strong track record in 5G development, TUK’s investment in Nokia’s 5G Digital Automation Cloud – deployed in partnership with Smart Mobile Labs – illustrates its commitment to research excellence. Today’s announcement extends a long-standing relationship with TUK, which has seen close co-operation with Nokia Bell Labs on Smart Factories and industry applications made possible with 5G.”