5G could add £6.3bn to UK manufacturing sector by 2030, says Vodafone
Adoption of 5G could add £6.3 billion to the value of the UK manufacturing industry by 2030, according to a new report from Vodafone. Investment in 5G in manufacturing could increase growth in the sector across the country, especially in the UK industrial heartlands in the North West, North East, Midlands and Wales, it said.
The report, in line with Vodafone’s interest to sell 5G networks to enterprises, calls on the government to set an ambitious target to become a global leader in the use of 5G technology in manufacturing over the next decade. The report recommends support for manufacturers to invest in 5G mobile private networks, and the creation of 5G test and innovation centres in regions that stand to benefit most from increased take-up of 5G in manufacturing.
Produced by WPI Economics, the report says a 5G-powered Industry 4.0 renaissance in UK manufacturing could play a significant role in realising UK government’s ambition to ‘level up’, especially in traditional industrial strongholds. The UK government set aside a £4.8 billion ‘levelling-up’ fund in its ‘budget’ financial statement earlier this year to the House of Commons on the nation’s finances, and economic forecasts and strategies.
The fund will invest in infrastructure for everyday life in the UK, including town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets. Vodafone, via WPI, reckons 5G can spur economic growth through deployment of bespoke mobile private networks to support “[real-time] sharing of large quantities of data from thousands of devices”, as well as faster decision-making and smarter productivity.
Vodafone also highlighted the role of private 5G networks to support predictive maintenance cases, to monitor “hundreds” of industrial machine and factory variables to forecast repairs and avoid unplanned downtime, as well as to enable remote support and computer design using digital twins of machinery and processes, brought to life in augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) applications.
The report is worth seeking out. Vodafone cited its work with Ford in the UK, which has seen it deploy a private 5G network at the car maker’s plant Ford in Essex. The project has used £1.9 million of UK government funding for 5G testbeds, shared across another Vodafone private 5G deployment at welding association TWI in Cambridge as part of the 5G Enabled Manufacture (5GEM) project.
The funding was issued in February last year (2020), as part of a £30 million release for seven rural 5G projects and a £5 million release for two industrial 5G projects. The second Industry 4.0 project, called 5G ENCODE, awarded £3.8 million, is headed by Zetta Networks, leading a consortium of 10 other companies including Telefonica, Siemens, Toshiba, Solvay, and Baker Hughes.
Vodafone said last week it has kickstarted a trial with UK Power Networks to connect the UK electricity network on a dedicated slice of its national 5G network, using public 5G infrastructure as opposed to bespoke private infrastructure. The initiative is part of the grid operator’s new Constellation project, to bring compute resources into its substation network, connected over 5G.
Anne Sheehan, business director at Vodafone UK, commented: “We are only beginning the 5G journey, but through our work with Ford, we know it offers huge potential for the manufacturing sector and beyond. We need to all get behind it, from government and Ofcom creating the right policy and regulatory environment, through to businesses embracing the power of innovation, and of course us as network operators creating this network of the future.”
Matt Warman, UK minister for digital infrastructure, said: “5G can change the way Britain builds and we’ve sparked a wave of innovation in UK manufacturing through our £200 million 5G trials scheme. We’ve seen driverless vehicles at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, VR at BAM Nutall building sites in Scotland, and Vodafone boosting laser-welding robots in Essex. The benefits of 5G for improving productivity, efficiency and safety in our manufacturing sector and beyond are clear. Vodafone’s report is a ringing endorsement of how this revolutionary technology can help.”