Vodafone to build private 5G network for Ford car factory

Vodafone to build private 5G network for Ford electric vehicle factory

25 June 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Vodafone is building a private 5G network for Ford’s electric vehicle factory in the UK.

The 5G network will be used to connect welding machines at the new factory in Dunton, east of London.

Vinod Kumar, CEO 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 [mobile private network] technology makes the factory of the future possible.”

The Dunton site will host what Ford calls its E:PriME facility – electrified powertrain in manufacturing engineering, powertrain being car industry jargon for engine.

Vodafone said that the 5G network will “overcome many of the issues surrounding wireless connectivity in the industrial setting”. It will provide “reduced delays, wider bandwidth, improved security and reliability, and faster deployment time”, added the company.

Kumar – CEO of Tata Communications until he moved to Vodafone Business last year – said: “It allows machines and computing power to coordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety. We’re excited to help Ford plan for the future of its business.”

Ford and Vodafone are working in association with Cambridge-based TWI – formerly the Welding Institute – which is also installing a private 5G network at its own site.

The whole project, called 5GEM – 5G Enabled Manufacture Project – is being given a £3.8 million grant as part of the UK government’s £65 million programme, announced in February, to support 5G technology. Other industry organisations, including the TM Forum, are taking part.

The Dunton site is expected to be live later this year as Ford boosts its electric vehicle production. The batteries and electric motors within an electric vehicle require around 1,000 welds – creating more than a half a million pieces of data every minute for a single vehicle.

Chris White, Ford’s 5GEM project lead, 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.”