Expect growth of 5G-powered mobile private networks

Out-Law News | 08 Jul 2020 | 10:45 am | 1 min. read

The prospect of being able to speed up manufacturing processes and handle the growing volume of data generated in production more efficiently will spur more UK companies to explore 5G-powered mobile private networks (MPNs), a telecoms expert has said.

Nick Hutton of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, was commenting after Ford announced that it had agreed a deal with Vodafone for the installation of a new 5G private network at its Dunton Campus manufacturing plant to the east of London.

According to Ford, the new network will ensure the company is better able to manage the swathes of data that are generated in welding batteries and electric motors for use in electric vehicles and thereby develop processes "at the same rate as these innovative products demand".

Chris White, who is project lead for 5G-enabled manufacturing at Ford, said: "Connecting today’s shop floor requires significant time and investment. Present technology can be the limiting factor in reconfiguring and deploying next-gen manufacturing systems. 5G presents the opportunity to transform the speed of launch and flexibility of present manufacturing facilities, moving us towards tomorrow’s plants connected to remote expert support and artificial intelligence."

Vinod Kumar, chief executive of Vodafone Business, said: "5G mobile private networks act as a springboard for organisations, allowing them to rethink the way they do business. In this case, MPN technology makes the factory of the future possible. It allows machines and computing power to coordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety."

Nick Hutton of Pinsent Masons said: "One of the biggest stories of 5G will be its power to unlock new commercial and industrial use cases, over and above traditional consumer-facing mobile broadband. We expect 5G-powered private networks – in some cases capitalising on recent spectrum licensing reforms– to be a huge growth area in the next few years. This ground-breaking project shows the potential of 5G becoming reality."

The agreement between consortium partners including Ford and Vodafone is backed by funding from the UK government via its 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, which is overseen by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Oliver Dowden, the UK's digital secretary, said: "We’re determined to harness this revolutionary technology to boost the productivity and growth of UK industries. We want Britain to be a world leader in 5G, and since 2017 the government has invested millions in ground-breaking testbeds and trials across the country to achieve this."