MWC Los Angeles -- Verizon said one of its major fiber vendors, Corning, will begin testing 5G in one of its manufacturing plants. The announcement reiterates the notion that 5G isn't just for smartphones, but that it also can be applied to a number of different enterprise applications, including smart manufacturing.
During a keynote appearance here, Corning's Claudio Mazzali explained that the company plans to use 5G in its fiber-optic cable manufacturing facility in Hickory, N.C., for three specific use cases:
- autonomous vehicles, such as robot forklifts.
- sensors for asset tracking and management, and to monitor the health and safety of employees at the plant.
- using the high download speeds and low latency, backed up by edge computing, for video surveillance for preventative maintenance and safety.
"I think you start to see the transformation only when you're in the middle of it," said Mazzali, SVP of technology for Corning's Optical Communications business segment. He added that manufacturing plants have serious RF coverage issues, and that the installation of 5G in the company's Hickory plant would provide a chance for both Corning and Verizon to conduct real-world tests of 5G in such an environment. "We're building this as a very dynamic test bed," he added.
It's worth noting that Corning is a major fiber supplier for Verizon's 5G network. In 2017, Verizon announced it would buy 12.5 million miles of fiber per year through 2020 from Corning for a whopping $1 billion; Verizon recently said it's now deploying fully 1,400 miles of fiber per month in support of the buildout of its 5G network.
"We're just getting started" with the 5G business opportunities, said Verizon's Tami Erwin, EVP and CEO of Verizon Business Group, in her own keynote appearance here. Erwin's comments coincide with the launch of Verizon's new "business ready" advertising campaign, which will focus on the various functions and services, including 5G, that Verizon can supply to major corporations like JetBlue and Anthem. "It's truly an exciting time," she added.
Verizon isn't the only company investigating the 5G manufacturing opportunity. For example, AT&T just a few months ago joined MxD, a nonprofit venture initially funded by the US Department of Defense (DoD) to foster innovation in the US manufacturing space. And last year the operator announced that its vendor, Samsung, would build a manufacturing-focused 5G "Innovation Zone" in Austin, Texas, with the goal of providing "a real-world understanding of how 5G can impact manufacturing and provide insight into the future of a Smart Factory."