Schneider Electric is looking to private 5G to support new industry 4.0 use cases.

The industrial multinational this week selected Japan-based NTT – one of its existing technology partners – to deploy the networks, beginning with its plant in Lexington, Kentucky. It is already one of Schneider’s more advanced smart factories, making use of edge analytics, predictive analytics and IoT connectivity to improve productivity and energy efficiency.

Deploying private 5G will enable Schneider to try out new use cases, including machine vision, which will give factory equipment the ability to identify faults as well as wear and tear in real time. It also aims to improve the management of its various automated ground vehicles (AGVs), and use augmented reality (AR) to enable remote workers to help out with equipment maintenance and other tasks. The hoped-for efficiency gains from private 5G are also in line with Schneider’s net zero carbon emissions strategy.

The deal is an important feather in the cap for NTT P5G, the telco’s cross-border network-as-a-service platform. Introduced last August, it is a cloud-native, end-to-end stack of services that, as well as connectivity, includes security, control, and privacy. Its launch customer was US-based snack company Mondelēz International, but since then the wires haven’t exactly been flooded with P5G customer announcements.

“With this strategic partnership, we are confident that NTT’s P5G solution will support Schneider Electric’s business and service level objectives with a powerful machine vision solution that solves for operational continuity and performance,” said Shahid Ahmed, EVP of new ventures and innovation at NTT, in a statement. “Our P5G platform brings full-stack managed services, process workflow and IoT application integration capabilities that both addresses strategic objectives towards factory high performance and net zero carbon emission goals.”

Under the partnership, NTT will deploy its private 5G services and data storage in Schneider’s prefabricated data centres, which are effectively shipping containers equipped with server racks, power and cooling. NTT will also integrate and test its edge applications with Schneider EcoStruxure, a suite of IoT tools and services.

“In partnering with NTT, Schneider Electric further extends its manufacturing expertise along with data centre and network solutions to drive innovations for self-contained edge private 5G use-cases,” said Luc Rémont, EVP of international operations at Schneider Electric.

This week’s announcement from NTT and Schneider is just the latest in a steady stream of deals illustrating the growing momentum behind private cellular networking. Other recent highlights include passive infrastructure provider Cellnex’s deal with engineering firm Segula; Nokia’s partnership with IBM spin-off Kyndryl; and British Sugar choosing Virgin Media for its private networking needs.

Earlier this week, IDC published new figures predicting global private LTE/5G infrastructure revenues will grow to $8.3 billion by 2026, from $1.7 billion last year. The market is expected to see a five-year CAGR of 35.7 percent between 2022 and 2026.

“While private LTE remained the predominant revenue generator [last year], private 5G marketing, education, trials, and new private 5G products and services also began to see market availability,” noted the research firm. “Continued uptake for private LTE and real-world applications of private 5G deployed across the manufacturing, warehousing, and broader industrial sector indicate that while private 5G remains in its infancy from a market size perspective, the appetite and interest for what it can deliver is very real.”

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