Enterprises don’t understand the tech or ROI – Ford on what to fix with private 5G
The telecoms sector has come in for a pasting in these pages recently as the industrial set have laid into it about its approach to industrial 5G. The argument goes that traditional operators and vendors are trying to solve industrial challenges with telecoms solutions, as if Industry 4.0 is just about new-fangled 5G networks. (The recent Enterprise IoT Insights report on the types of industrial 5G SLAs being written to support private 5G networks gets into this subject at length.)
But speaking plainly at today’s Private Networks Forum event, automotive manufacturer Ford said the onus is on the two sides to meet halfway, and suggested industrialists, in fact, are pretty clueless about industrial 5G in general, and need urgent hand-holding to navigate the technical and practical minutiae of 5G as a platform for digital change.
Chris White, electrification manager for Ford’s European business, commented: “Our understanding was really poor at the start. We’ve been in this a year, working with Vodafone, and we have built-up that understanding. But… that understanding about [industrial 5G] is very poor outside of the telecoms world.”
Sharing a panel with Ericsson, Mavenir, and Radisys, White ran through some of the preceding topics in the panel session at Private Networks Forum, put on by RCR Wireless and Enterprise IoT Insights. “Standalone, non-standalone, all the latest 3GPP releases – [there is a lack of understanding about] all these things we have talked about, and what they mean for enterprises.”
He added: “Helping enterprises with that knowledge is really important.” White leads the 5GEM (5G-enabled manufacturing) consortium of companies in the UK, focused on usage of industrial 5G to connect machines for real-time analysis and control. The project centres on two private 5G networks at Ford plants in Dunton and Cambridge in the UK. Vodafone has supplied the networks.
At the same time, White warned that 5G is a means-to-an-end; the subtext is the telecoms community is inclined to present it as the solution, instead – as per the criticism, referenced above, levelled at the sector by enterprises. “5G is just an enabler. There is no business case for 5G,” he said.
“There is a business case for all of the things it enables within the enterprises – whether that is Industry 4.0, or augmented reality and preventive maintenance via IoT sensors. All those things have a business case, but [the market] has to realise you can’t just put 5G network in and get a return; you need a plan for everything to launch off the back of it.”