Volkswagen begins 5G private wireless network pilot project

Private 5G wireless network to support industrial connectivity at the production development centre and pilot hall at car giant’s headquarters plant in Wolfsburg

Volkswagen has deployed a private 5G standalone wireless network at its main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, and becomes the second major German car manufacturer in a week to make such a move to boost its enterprise communications.

Situated on the banks of the Mittellandkanal, an artificial waterway, the Volkswagen plant has an area of more than 6km2, with the factory halls alone taking up a surface area of 1.6km2. The network of roads connecting the individual production facilities, warehouses, administration buildings and outdoor facilities has a total length of 75km. Also, 60km of railway tracks criss-cross the grounds, with six locomotives, two shunting robots and a traverse in operation.

The private campus network uses the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) to provide reliable, secure, real-time connectivity and enable Volkswagen to trial new smart factory use cases. The industrial-grade private 5G wireless network covers the production development centre and pilot hall at the Wolfsburg plant.

In the pilot project, Volkswagen will test whether the 5G technology meets the demanding requirements of vehicle production, with the goal to increase efficiency and flexibility in future series production.

Nokia is confident that the deployment of its DAC offers reliable high-bandwidth and low-latency connectivity for sensors, machines, vehicles and other equipment. Initial use cases that are being tested include wireless upload of data to manufactured vehicles and intelligent networking of robots and wireless assembly tools. The deployment will also aim to ensure that all data remains on the campus, processed at the network edge in real time, giving Volkswagen full control.

The network is operating in the dedicated 3.7-3.8GHz band for local private wireless networks, which Volkswagen applied for and was allocated by the German Federal Network Agency.

“Predictable wireless performance and the real-time capabilities of 5G have great potential for smart factories in the not-so-distant future,” said Klaus-Dieter Tuchs, network planning at Volkswagen. “With this pilot deployment, we are exploring the possibilities 5G has to offer and are building our expertise in operating and using 5G technology in an industrial context.”

Chris Johnson, head of global enterprise business at Nokia, added: “Nokia is a worldwide leader in private wireless technology for Industry 4.0 digital transformation proven by over 380 large enterprise customer deployments, of which more than 75 incorporate 5G. By deploying private wireless to explore and develop its potential in manufacturing, Volkswagen underscores its leading position in leveraging digitisation to enhance efficiency and productivity.

“We are delighted to support this effort with the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud and our extensive experience in private wireless networks.”

Volkswagen’s deployment comes just after Porsche entered into a collaboration with Ericsson in a trial project representing the high-performance car manufacturer’s first deployment of a private next-generation network, which it hopes will herald a new remote production era for the automotive industry.

The dedicated 5G network will be piloted in the technology cell body shop for Porsche’s Macan line and will enable the control of robotics in real time without cables. It also allows for the transmission of massive amounts of data between other on-site machines, production workers and vehicles through the secure, flexible and predictable transmission of signals in real time. 

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