Volkswagen rolls out 5G shopfloor network
The vehicle manufacturer uses an exclusive 5G radio frequency for its campus network in Wolfsburg to ensure interference-free and secure data transmission. Volkswagen is implementing the construction and operation of the 5G infrastructure on its own account and thus aims to gather expertise relevant to competition for the use of this important future technology as well as to ensure data security. In the long term, the campus network at the Wolfsburg site will cover large parts of the 6.5 square kilometre factory premises.
The deployment of the 5G network is part of Volkswagen’s “Accelerate” strategy. Its goal is to reorganise production processes as a “smart factory”. Christian Vollmer, the member of the VW board of management responsible for production and logistics, sees “great potential” in 5G for the use of intelligent robots, driverless transport systems and for the wirelessly networked control of plants and machines in real time, all the way to wireless software loading of produced vehicles.
There are already around 5,000 robots at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg today, plus many more machines. In future, their control and monitoring will require secure and delay-free transmission of data. In real-time operation, reaction times must be as short as possible. 5G provides the basis for this: the latency, i.e. the time with which data is sent through the network, is significantly reduced with 5G radio compared to other wireless communication technologies such as WiFi. With 5G technology, extremely short latency times of up to 1 millisecond can be realised. In addition, this radio technology offers the possibility for data transmission rates in the gigabit range and a high level of reliability even with large workloads. This is how wireless communication in real time makes many applications of a smart factory possible in the first place.
One scenario that will be tested in the pilot phase under real laboratory conditions in Wolfsburg is the wireless uploading of software and data to produced vehicles. With ever higher levels of digitalisation and fully networked vehicles, the production process requires the transfer of large amounts of data to the cars. 5G makes it possible to carry out this “digital fuelling” much more quickly as well as flexibly in terms of time during production.
For the campus network in Wolfsburg, the company has applied for and been allocated a private radio frequency at 3.7 to 3.8 GHz with 100 MHz bandwidth with the responsible authority. The company considers an exclusive frequency spectrum to be a key factor for 5G campus operations within the production site. Only a dedicated frequency enables interference-free, highly available wireless transmission, as it is used exclusively by one operator. The network supplier for the 5G pilot network is the Finnish telecommunications group Nokia.
A so-called 5G island has also been put into operation in Volkswagen’s “Transparent Factory” in Dresden, which is testing innovative technologies in regular operation of the ID.3 small series as a pilot factory for the Volkswagen brand. In collaboration with Porsche, Audi and TU Dresden, the networked plant control system is being further developed on an automated guided vehicle (AGV). The sensors of the AGV transfer the environmental data to the cloud computer via 5G. The computer calculates the route to an ID.3 body and sends the information back in real time.