Ford and Vodafone have confirmed that they are working together to build a futuristic car factory that utilises 5G connectivity.
Vodafone is supplying a private 5G network to Ford’s new E:PriME (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) facility in Dunton, Essex, with a predicted completion date of Autumn 2020. The extra performance and increased bandwidth is expected to speed up manufacturing, improve security, and increase productivity.
In terms of specific applications, this new private 5G network will improve the performance of welding machines on Ford’s electric vehicle line.
Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business, said: "5G mobile private networks [MPN] 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 co-ordinate in real time, improving precision, efficiency and safety.
“We’re excited to help Ford plan for the future of its business.”
5G implementation in manufacturing
The two companies are leading a consortium that’s utilising a government grant to test 5G implementation in manufacturing. Besides this Ford Dunton site, the consortium is also implementing a high-speed 5G network at welding research specialists TWI in Cambridge.
Predictions of 5G’s transformative effects in the manufacturing industry have been prevalent for some time. Back in April 2019, a white paper from industrial communications specialist HMS Labs predicted that 5G would revolutionise production processes on the factory floor.
In early 2020, analyst ABI Research forecast that manufacturing would generate as much as a quarter of 5G revenue over the next eight years. And it’s not just in the construction of these cars that 5G will make its presence felt.
Back in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it was announced that Samsung would be supplying its new 5G telematics control unit (TCU) to power the ‘fully electric, fully connected’ BMW iNext car, which is set to hit roads in 2021.
5G’s high performance mobile network will enable true connected cars that can communicate with the infrastructure around them. It will also support the mainstream rollout of fully automated cars, which will be able to communicate with one another and make split-second decisions thanks to 5G’s increased bandwidth and low latency.