BMW Builds Open RAN 5G Testbed at the Dingolfing Plant

BMW has successfully built an open RAN 5G testbed at the Dingolfing plant in Germany to study advanced technologies and train employees to work with advanced cellular connectivity. The initiative is part of the company’s attempt to bring high-speed broadband to all of its production facilities across the world.

In 2020, the automaker said that it wants to employ 5G in all of its production facilities. The company has hit the ground running with the latest 5G testbed at its largest European facility.

The Dingolfing plant has been BMW’s center for research on connected logistics in recent years. It had already set up a 5G network before it began working on the new testbed.

BMW is undertaking its Open Ran 5G Testbed with NTT Group, Celona, Intel, and Microsoft. They will head the network with a lab at the production plant at Dingolfing.

Kai Grunwitz, country managing director, NTT shared that BMW wanted the high-speed network to comply with Open RAN Alliance specifications so as to support interoperability and avoid vendor lock-in.  

“Technology is changing with such speed and there are so many players out there. I don’t know how the market will look in 2-3 years; it is so dynamic at the moment,” he added.

BMW has remained a leader in integrating 5G support into its vehicles and some of its 2022 models will support 5G in the US too.

BMW iX with 5G connectivity
BMW iX with 5G connectivity

Grunwitz shared that open RAN brings many complexities to pursue however, the Celona private 5G network was built in a matter of a few weeks.

With the versatility of 5G allowing for different types of network installation in different bands, deployments of different types have also increased. Grunwitz says NTT is also installing an open RAN private 5G network for a German airport operator Fraport at Frankfurt Airport. Private 5G networks are suited to work in higher bands as they provide ultra-fast speed at low latency spanning a small area.

Also see: 5G at Chinese Airports Amidst a Fierce Debate in the US

Open RAN 5G Testbed at a Dingolfing “BMW Innovation Hub”

The newly installed Open RAN 5G Testbed at a Dingolfing Plant is part of BMW’s Innovation Hub. The automaker calls it a “plant within a plant”, in other words, a meta plant.

It is equipped with robots that work at another nearby facility. The new recruits at the production unit can now work with advanced technology thanks to the Open RAN 5G.

Open RAN 5G Testbed at the Dingolfing Plant, BMW
Credit: BMW

Grunwitz says the high-speed 5G network allows employees to control robotic arms to avert a possible injury to a worker or a product in case the machine malfunctions.

Likewise, the network also includes support for low latency to exploit artificial intelligence. But it has not been confirmed how the company intends to use the AI in the lab. Intel has provided the AI processors used in the Innovation Hub.

Check out: T-Mobile Collaboration with Disney and others for 5G innovation

Going worldwide

The Open RAN 5G Testbed at a Dingolfing Plant can lead to other BMW factories globally, which is the purpose of the famous automaker as well.

Chinese BMW plants already have full 5G coverage for three years. Gradually, the initiative will expand in plants worldwide.

A recent survey backed by NTT revealed that Germany, Japan, Britain, and the US are leading the private 5G network deployments with 33%, 24%, 22%, and 17% respectively. The US still has more functional private 5G networks than other countries.

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