Ericsson said a private 5G network using its artificial intelligence service has more uptime than traditional telco networks, and that the service can scale to public networks. The company shared details on a 5G private network deployed with Vodafone at a Foxconn factory in Hungary, explaining that artificial intelligence is helping network engineers deliver an always-on network.

Nello Califano, head of strategy and portfolio management, Ericsson business area networks, said the algorithms perform regular network health checks, database maintenance and back-up procedures. In addition the system checks the “heartbeat” of all radios, controllers and data links, he said. The software can also balance traffic automatically, and monitor KPIs continuously to ensure that Vodafone is fulfilling its service level agreement with Foxconn.

“We are very conscious of the trust placed by Foxconn in Vodafone and have worked jointly with Ericsson to create this unique technical assistance offering for enterprises to ensure that the operation of their private networks is free of unplanned interruptions,” said Vodafone business director Mátyás Dobó, in a press release. Vodafone and Foxconn have been partners for five years, the operator said, adding that Vodafone’s plan to sell its Hungarian operation to 4iG and Corvinus should not impact the private 5G network in Komáron.

The companies said software is constantly collecting and analyzing product data as well as network data at the factory, and alerting the network operations team when abnormal conditions are detected. “The alert will be combined either with information that an action has been performed automatically in the network to fix the issue or with a recommendation for action to the operations team,” said Califano. “In this way Vodafone can offer ‘always on´ experience for critical operations to its enterprise customers. The service continuity is future proof and scalable to both private as well as public 4G/5G networks.”

Califano noted the importance of Ericsson’s boots on the ground in delivering reliable private network solutions for customers. “We know that technology and AI algorithms alone will not solve network challenges,” he said. “AI and technology in general need to be complemented by the competence of our engineers …. We have 3500 domain and network experts in 180 countries.” Califano said these technical experts are key to helping private network customers integrate AI, regardless of their “maturity level.”

Foxconn’s maturity level is likely higher than most. The company manufactures 5G gear for its customers, has built its own private 5G networks in China, and has deployed its own LTE core in a private network in Wisconsin. But at the Hungarian factory, Foxconn uses Ericsson radios and an Ericsson on-premise core. The private 5G network is used to connect mobile test stations on which some of Foxconn’s newly manufactured PCs are tested before packaging. 

Last year Foxconn VP Dr. Péter Tálos told Hungarian media the company wants to be a leader in 5G private networks, even though none of the benefits of private 5G for an industrial facility are “present or immediate.” Tálos said Foxconn’s goal is to become a subject matter expert in the use of 5G networks because the technology will eventually become “crucial” to manufacturing.

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