Betacom announced this week that Teltech Group is deploying Betacom 5G as a Service to automate its 200,000-square-foot warehouse in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
They’re setting it up as a showcase for warehouse automation and Industry 4.0 IoT capabilities. But it’s not exactly 5G yet.
Teltech is a telecom solutions provider, Native American and woman-owned, led by CEO Lisa Hanlon-Knight. Its list of strategic alliances read like a Who’s Who in telecom, with Cisco, Nokia, Panasonic, Polte and Samsung among them. Teltech provides a range of services, including warehousing and third-party logistics solutions.
They’ve been using Wi-Fi but wanted to explore modernizing the Dallas/Fort Worth facility where they had consolidated four warehouses into a single warehouse in 2020. Kim Smith, CMO at Teltech, said they were aware of CBRS but had not worked with it until getting together with Betacom.
The Betacom private 4G/5G network supports the company’s NetSuite Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and enables enhanced scanning capabilities that greatly increase efficiencies in material receiving, order fulfillment and shipping, according to a press release. Airspan provided the underlying radio access network (RAN).
The concept of having a private network was something they discussed at Teltech since getting into the IoT space. They saw what 5G had to offer by way of lower latency and cost efficiencies and felt it would be a real game changer, Smith said. Teltech has another warehouse in Grand Junction, Colorado, which could get a similar upgrade.
Teltech, which employs about 100 people, is looking to use wireless to free its operations of cables and connect robots for fully automated processes. It has its Teltech Asset Management (TAM 2.0) system that’s tied to a wired scanner and they’re looking forward to having a 5G-enabled system to provide location data on hundreds of thousands of things, and that will in turn reduce human error and hopefully improve the time it takes to do inventory audits.
Why automate a forklift? If you don’t have a person driving it, there’s a cost savings there, but you still need someone to monitor the environment, noted Michael “Mick” Davies, VP of Business and Partner Strategy at Betacom. Basically, an automated forklift allows for things like scheduling stacking activities at certain times and operating for longer times than with a human operator.
Betacom is working with vendors on 5G but it’s not ready for prime time. The primary challenge is availability of end user devices, and there are work-arounds, said Brian Watkins, EVP, Sales and Business Development at Betacom. The bigger challenge, however, is the 5G RAN itself is still undergoing development.
He doesn’t expect there to be any considerable launch of private wireless CBRS Band 48 5G RAN on a commercial scale until late this year or early next year. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been deployed. Betacom did announce a 5G deployment for MxD in Chicago, but that is a lab environment.
Betacom is testing both indoor and outdoor open RAN solutions. “We’re going to be bringing the 5G open RAN devices into the labs up in Chicago for more lab testing with commercial partners kind of in the middle part of the fourth quarter,” he said. “It is making its way onto the road maps of companies that are out there testing,” but it’s going to be a while before it’s commercially viable.
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