Private 5G and the German Automotive industry

The German automotive industry has a lot to ponder over. As we’ve seen across the press and social media, new challenges and impressive competition are causing both awe and anxiety.

The movement from internal combustion to electric vehicles, and the growing emphasis on software is already rapidly reshaping the industry’s competitive landscape. This evolving market has opened the door for new entrants, particular from China. In 2022, China eclipsed Germany in light-vehicle exports for the first time, driven by battery electric vehicles (BEV), with exports of about 3.0 million vehicles, compared to Germany’s 2.6 million.

German automotive companies are now in a race against time to transform their operations, rolling out new battery-powered models to bridge the gap with EV market leaders like Tesla and China’s BYD.

German automotive giants know they have to think differently to keep their global leadership position. The automotive sector is after all, one of the main pillars of the German economy, employing around 786,000 people and being a major contributor to the country’s investments, sales, and exports.

Any setbacks in this sector could have wide-reaching implications. As Hildegard Müller, head of Germany’s VDA auto lobby, pointed out, there is a risk of Germany and Europe falling behind in the global race for clean mobility, urging swift actions to maintain competitiveness.

Can Private 5G keep German automotive industry on track?

The automotive industry is no different to any other – evolution is key to survival.

Envision a factory where interconnectivity is the norm: sensors, actuators, and machines all communicate seamlessly in real-time. These revolutions are part of the shift towards Industry 4.0, with a focus on automation, data exchange and smart technology. Traditional networks struggle to keep up with the demands of this new era, where high-speed, robust connectivity is key. Machines, sensors and devices must communicate seamlessly, sharing data to optimise production processes, monitor equipment and enable predictive maintenance.

Private 5G creates the high-speed, low latency and secure networks capable of handling the increase connectivity demands of modern factories – robots, drones and AR/VR, seamlessly integrated into the manufacturing process. A critical feature of Private 5G is its capacity for edge computing, enabling data processing closer to where it’s generated. This results in reduced latency and allows machines to detect and respond to issues in real-time, minimising downtime and maximising efficiency.

Private 5G also provides a bespoke approach, with the network tailored to the unique needs of each factory. Industrial-grade hardware aligns with cutting-edge software, creating a network that’s not just faster, but more secure and more efficient.

If we consider an individual application like ondition-Based Monitoring (CBM) as an example, it manages massive amounts of data from machines and instruments to allow for actionable intelligence enabling immediate maintenance responses to prevent breakdowns and ensuring continuous operations. This creates a new level of operational efficiency. Sticking to the old ways and hoping for the best simply isn’t going to fly.

While Germany is seeing a rise in Private 5G deployments, a broader perspective reveals a stark contrast with global peers, particularly in the speed and scope of their 5G integration. Great Wall Motors deployed a 5G-Advanced production line, a ‘factory of the future’ featuring a production line ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency – it even eliminates the need for wires. German manufactures need to accelerate their integration of Private 5G to match the pace set by their competitors, who continue to adopt Private 5G at a swifter pace. Private 5G deployments in China are not of course limited to the automotive sector, though there are obvious synergies. In warehousing too, the Chinese company JD Logistics created a 5G-powered logistics park in Beijing, leveraging AI, big data, IoT and AR/VR – enabling real-time monitoring, analysis, and intelligent decision-making.  

Many organisations consider 5G networks to be more complex than traditional wired Ethernet or enterprise Wi-Fi, necessitating a certain degree of internal expertise within organisations. This gap in knowledge and awareness about the capabilities of 5G networks can act as a deterrent for businesses considering their deployment. It’s obviously not as black and white as that, given how we’re seeing more Private 5G deployments than ever around the world. The growth of Private LTE/5G networks shows no signs of slowing down. By the end of 2023, there were 2,900 LTE/5G networks worldwide, and according to Berg Insight, this number is set to skyrocket to 11,900 by 2028.

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