German car manufacturers, chemical companies and industrial companies are taking steps to create their own private 5G network, leaping over German telecommunications operators, which have not yet used superfast networks for widespread commercial use.
, Robert Bosch GmbH,
are among companies that have applied for a local 5G network in recent months after German network regulators began accepting applications for the radio spectrum last November. So far, 33 companies have bought licenses, said a spokesman for the regulator.
The Private 5G network is very useful for industrial applications such as operating robots and driverless vehicles inside the factory, which require fast and reliable connections that can perform important tasks in real time, experts say.
“You will not be comfortable placing your industrial application on Wi-Fi networks because there is no reliability,” said Petar Popovski, a professor of wireless connectivity at Aalborg University in Denmark. A delay of several seconds may not be important in the office, but being able to control precisely when heavy machinery processes materials, for example, can make a big difference for industrial companies.
Private networks will also help strengthen cybersecurity, the company said, because they will be able to configure the network to suit their needs, use special security features such as encryption and avoid sharing bandwidth with other companies.
“We decide where the data is stored. We have no external influence, “said Fabian Berger, a board member of Mugler AG, a company based in Oberlungwitz, eastern Germany, which provides telecommunications services to the company. Mugler is preparing a local 5G network that will reach two office buildings and two fabrication and logistics facilities along 40,000 square meters. Mugler can save money by building his own 5G network instead of using public networks, Berger said.
is currently in talks to test the 5G network provided by
Verizon Communication Inc.,
The Wall Street Journal reported last month. The network will support new digital health services in Walmart stores. Verizon and U.S. operators others are setting up networks in several cities and sports arenas.
German manufacturers and other industrial companies can use the 5G network without a telecommunications operator, and can choose suppliers who provide equipment. The UK began a similar process last year to sell licenses for the company’s 5G network. The US has not yet opened an application for a 5G spectrum license for industrial companies.
A spokesman for the German Federal Network Agency said the agency decided to allow the private 5G network in part because of the potential benefits for industrial companies. The company has so far paid between € 1,000 and € 1 million for licenses, depending on the bandwidth and size of the area to be covered, he said.
Discussion of potential cyber security weaknesses in equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. sparked company interest in running their connections independently, said Jochen Reinschmidt, senior manager of political affairs at the German Electric and Electronics Producers Association.
U.S. Government regards Huawei as a national security threat and claim the company can use its products to spy on behalf of the Chinese government. Huawei has consistently denied the claim. In January, the UK approved the use of Huawei equipment in what is referred to as a non-core part of the country’s 5G network, which includes base stations and antennas.
Cellular operators choose where to buy network equipment, and corporate customers and their customers must accept the decision or change operators. By building their own 5G network, industrial companies can make their own supplier decisions.
Mugler’s Berger said the company would use equipment from several suppliers, but declined to name them.
BMW bought the spectrum for a private 5G network at one of its sites in Bavaria. M3connect GmbH, a German telecommunications software company, will set up the network and are testing different supplier equipment in the laboratory, said a BMW spokesman.
BMW did not answer the question about whether the network will use Huawei equipment and m3connect declined to comment on whether to use Huawei products.
The local 5G network comes with other security benefits, Popovski said. The company can oversee activities that cross personal networks, he said.
“Every intruder in that area will be detected just because you have it,” he said. “It’s the same as if you bought a parking space and saw someone else park there.”
Lufthansa’s maintenance subsidiary, Lufthansa Technik AG, in February said it would build a private 5G network operated by
PLC group, using
OJ equipment, for remote engine inspection and remote 3-D cab design. Lufthansa Technik said the network increased security and provided more configuration options, allowing companies to adjust bandwidth for uploads and downloads for certain projects.
The chemical company BASF is discussing plans to build its local 5G network, and aims to decide at the end of the year which network operators and equipment suppliers will manage it, a company spokesman said. The network will be used for BASF production and logistics facilities, he added.
The German industrial giant can protect valuable information by maintaining control over operational data and deciding where it is stored, said Gabriel Brown, principal analyst at the Informa PLC research business, Heavy Reading. Companies that operate local 5G networks choose whether to store data in their own data centers or in the cloud, for example.
A more reliable connection at an industrial production location is another potential benefit. A Volkswagen spokeswoman said the company wanted to buy a license for the local 5G network, and that a dedicated network was the only way to guarantee the transmission would be hassle free.
Volkswagen wants to use 5G for bandwidth-intensive industrial tasks such as managing 5,000 robots connected to the internet at its factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. In the future, car makers will need 5G to coordinate robots and driverless cars at production sites and transmit data volumes in real time, the spokesman said. The company prefers to operate the network itself, and is in the process of hiring mobile technology experts, the spokesman said.
Write to Catherine Stupp at [email protected]
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