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Free builds ‘largest’ factory 5G network for ASN in Calais

ASN calais cable handling.jpg

French mobile operator Free has built what it claims to be the largest 5G connected factory in Europe for Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN).

The installation, at ASN’s plant in Calais (pictured), has 57 indoor 5G access points and two outdoor 5G access points over an area of 50,000 sq m.

ASN – which is owned by Nokia – is also commissioning a similar project at its other main site, in Greenwich, south-east London.

The Greenwich factory, which makes repeaters for subsea cables, will have eight indoor 5G emission points to cover the main building by the end of 2022.

In Calais, this is what ASN calls “the culmination of the Industry 4.0 project, led by ASN for two years and financed to the tune of several million euros by the [French] government as part of the recovery plan and the investments for the future programme”.

ASN is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and installers of submarine fibre optic cables, designing, making, installing and maintaining submarine cables around the globe.

“The Industry 4.0 project aims to significantly improve the productivity, quality, traceability and safety of operations at the Calais site,” said ASN.

“The private 5G infrastructure makes it possible to deploy an integrated software architecture comprising three platforms – design and industrialisation, production, costs and planning – that now interconnect all ASN activities.”

To this is added a hardware layer, with a set of connected objects, including glasses, tablets and sensors, that make it possible to collect real-time data on the production workshops.

Several 5G applications are already operational on site, said ASN, including the digitalisation of manufacturing procedures, real-time filling measurement of the 130 storage tanks of fibre cables and remote maintenance assistance.

In Calais, Free Pro and Free Mobile collaborated to deploy the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud, which offers industrial-grade private 5G network connectivity and edge computing capabilities.

ASN has not said which provider is installing its private 5G in Greenwich, which is has been making subsea cables and equipment continually on the same site since 1850 – almost certainly the oldest telecoms factory in the world.