Home5GMitsubishi Electric, NTT Docomo team up on private 5G for Industry 4.0 in Thailand

Mitsubishi Electric, NTT Docomo team up on private 5G for Industry 4.0 in Thailand

Japanese manufacturing group Mitsubishi Electric has inducted country-mate NTT Docomo into its new Industry 4.0 alliance in Thailand in order to offer private 5G with smart manufacturing solutions from other partners. Mitsubishi Electric called it “the first case of private 5G with Japanese equipment” – in Thailand. The pair will build a new private 5G setup in the country by the end of the summer, strategically located for the government’s Thailand 4.0 project.

Mitsubishi Electric’s e-F@ctory Alliance in Thailand, introduced at the end of last year, seeks to unite industrial system integration companies, industrial software providers, and industrial device manufacturers to better coordinate Industry 4.0 solutions for Mitsubishi Electric’s enterprise customers in the country. NTT Docomo has been recruited to the project to provide private 5G gear and management, and possibly radio spectrum, into the bargain.

A venue and headquarters for the alliance has been established at the EEC Automation Park in Burapha University, billed as a networking centre for Industry 4.0 workforce and tech development, and a joint venture between the university and Mitsubishi Electric’s factory automation business in Thailand, Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation (MELFT). Burapha University is in the coastal town of Saen Suk in the province of Chonburi.

MELFT is leading the alliance partner scheme. The automation park in Burapha University, expected to attract up to 500 billion baht in investment in robotics and automation over the next three years, is situated along the Thai government’s proposed Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), covering 13,000 square kilometres through the provinces of Rayong, Chonburi, and Chachoengsao. Its EEC policy is a key plank in its Thailand 4.0 project.

The Thailand 4.0 scheme seeks to unlock the country from certain economic challenges resulting from past development models which placed focus on agriculture (Thailand 1.0), light industry (Thailand 2.0), and advanced industry (Thailand 3.0), according to government missives. It proposes the development of a series of new growth hubs, to make Thailand a centre for trade, investment, regional transportation, and a strategic gateway to Asia

The plan starts with development of the EEC region, as the first growth hub. It hinges on simplifying and popularising Industry 4.0 technologies, as developed and tested by the e-F@ctory project and the EEC Automation Park, including private 5G, as a lever for industrial robotics, drones (UAVs), autonomous vehicles (AMRs), and IoT sensing, plus sundry AR/VR, digital twin, machine vision, and predictive analytics apps, and so on.

The initial aim of the EEC project is to link 200 companies and 10,000 factories within five years to “robotics or green tech”. Mitsubishi Electric said the e-F@ctory project, and the Thailand 4.0 scheme, will deliver “never-imaginable new business creation and new ‘monozukuri’ (production)”. It said the collaboration with NTT Docomo is “the first case” where the operator has exported “Japanese telecoms tech” – via its 5G Global Enterprise Consortium (5GEC).

NTT DoCoMo’s 5GEC group is focused on industrial 5G in private standalone setups, for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra reliable low-latency (URLLC), and massive machine-type (mMTC) communications – as the classic trinity in 3GPP standards development. The 5GEC project launched in Thailand 12 months ago, and was pegged for replication in other Asia Pacific countries. The likes of Fujitsu and NEC are also in the 5GEC gang.

The collaboration in Thailand “sends a clear signal of the closer cooperation between the governments of Thailand and Japan” to develop Thailand’s industrial economy, said Mitsubishi Electric. A statement made clear the different roles and responsibilities for the two Japanese companies, as they seek to sell private 5G to Thai enterprises, with NTT Docomo bringing the ICT and 5G knowhow and Mitsubishi Electric bringing the OT and factory ‘smarts’.

A statement said: “The mission is to jointly deploy [private 5G] in a model factory… to [provide] the manufacturing industry with access to and understanding [about] private 5G, [as a networking tech] that can be customised for the requirements of each industry…. The key benefit is to improve production efficiency while ensuring a high level of security for the manufacturer’s operational information.”

Wichiene Ngamsukkarsemsri, managing director for MELFT Thailand, said: “The collaboration with NTT Docomo … [will] drive Industry 4.0 in Thailand – not just in the EEC region, but beyond. This partnership leverages our drive to bring 5G to Thai manufacturing at a [faster] pace. Private 5G, isolated from public networks, is highly secure and stable… [and] reduces cabling and equipment relocation… [It also] enables solutions to optimise production… We are supporting the government… by significantly accelerating… smart factories in [Thailand].”

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