US car maker Tesla has just released a 78 second video about a private 5G network at its Berlin autoplant, and the whole of social media has exploded; or at least, the tech commentariat on certain channels has shared and remarked as if it is a eureka moment. Which is kind of annoying, honestly, because Tesla says nothing in it that has not already been said (in these pages, plus certain others) about private 5G in Industry 4.0. 

But then, this is Tesla, of course; and, like a few other grossly-capitalised tech-trendies, when it talks, the world listens – and the market likely follows. So perhaps its video short, voiced by Pat and Ernesto in its Berlin IT department, is just what the private 5G market needs right now as it grapples with some kind of maturity. But what does it actually reveal? What do Pat and Ernesto (their surnames are not given) say? 

The video is embedded below, along with a full transcript of it – because, you know, everything Tesla says matters (insert eye-roll emoji). But here is what we actually do know from it. The rest – the identity of vendor partners and integrator partners; the rate of use-case stacking and multi-site scaling; the in-car private-5G stuff – will wait for another day. A point as well that Tesla’s private 5G interests have been talked about for ages like an open secret, so there is plenty of other (good) commentary out there. 

But here goes – for the sake of clicks, and all that. 

1 | ‘First’-est and fastest 

This is the biggest takeaway. Pat, part of the IT team at Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Berlin (Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg), says the company is ready to replicate its private 5G setup in the German capital across its production facilities worldwide. He implies the factory in Berlin – billed as its “most advanced, sustainable, and efficient facility yet” on its website – was the “one of the first ones” to deploy private 5G. Whether that is a first among Tesla plants, too, or a first among global or regional automotive manufacturing plants, is not quite clear. 

But given Germany was quick to issue ‘vertical spectrum’ for enterprises to deploy private 5G at 3.7-3.8 GHz, which the Tesla factory presumably uses, and its industrial sector in general, and its automotive sector in particular, has been slow to turn test networks into live production networks, then Tesla’s claim of primacy looks sound. Pat comments: “We are one of the first ones in the manufacturing automotive industry to launch private 5G into manufacturing at big-scale. And here at Giga Berlin, we’re actually the first ones to do this, and then [to] scale it globally.”

2 | Coverage is the killer

It is obvious perhaps; why else would it make the video? But Ernesto, part of the networking team, says private 5G has “really changed the way we deliver network (connectivity) in many places in the factory”. That point (“really changed”) should not go without comment. Ernesto compares the cost in time and effort to lay cable and electricity to connect its outdoor areas, in particular, with shorter-range higher-volume Wi-Fi access points. “Now, it’s really (just) that small antenna over there on top of [a] cell building (tower),” he says, gesturing at a lampost in a parking lot, perhaps, beneath a grey Berlin sky. 

Coverage, of course, is the killer application for private 5G (and LTE/4G) at the moment – more than fancy high-fidelity indoor production-line use cases, which will come later. It is the same story that everyone tells: cellular reaches the parts that other enterprise networking technologies cannot, to paraphrase an old beer commercial. Tesla is finding the same. It’s not revelatory, just because it is well understood; but it sounds like Ernesto and co at Tesla have found the impact on outdoor operations at least to be quite revelatory (“really changed”). 

3 | Robots everywhere

The background video footage shows a modern factory, and one we imagine is state-of-the-art so far as digital automation technology goes. Cars are carried on overhead conveyors; a time-lapse sequence shows parts being fitted to them from underneath. There are indoor trucks and trolleys and forklifts, and the outdoor segment shows a parking lot with a fleet of new cars, completed and ready to go. But the use cases being loaded onto the private 5G network in Berlin seem more practical than theatrical – as they should, and as they are in most private 5G setups.

Pat talks about enabling “mobile machines to communicate ultra reliably and [to] just keep running all the time”. For “mobile machines”, read AMRs and AGVs and MIRs, and all of the other automated rolling logistics stock that carries goods about factories and warehouses, and struggles historically with handover between Wi-Fi access points. Again, Tesla is using private 5G like everyone else. There is nothing new, except Tesla’s own ringing endorsement. Ernesto’s outdoor sequence references the ability to flash software updates onto vehicles easily, and presumably just to locate them in the lot. 

Again, other car makers are doing the same. But what it shows is the use case(s) looks clear and the business case looks solid.

4 | Total revolution

But, it should be said again, that any serious endorsement from a modern tech-first manufacturing phenomenon is powerful for the whole Industry 4.0 sector, and that the video lightly hints that Tesla sees private 5G as a foundational platform for more ambitious Industry 4.0 pursuits. Pat says: “Private 5G lays the foundation for innovation and next-level operations at our manufacturing and warehouse facilities.” Ernesto follows: “This is how 5G is helping us transition even faster to a sustainable future.” 

The message is that private 5G will bust down the doors for industrial AI, and total revolution.

Original article can be seen at: