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Private Networks

Finnish factory trials Nokia's private network technology

Nokia and its partners have deployed a 5G-ready private LTE network at a Finnish factory in a pilot project designed to streamline factory operations, enhance safety and inform new product development.

Danfoss is a Danish manufacturer with a strong presence in Finland. The company makes HVAC equipment as well as pumps and power solutions, and its products are used in ships, vehicles and buildings. The company's new private network is running at a factory that makes frequency converters in Vaasa, Finland, and Danfoss says it wants to use the network to increase efficiency and safety.

"Our aim is to use the private network to improve plant productivity. We want our factories to run more efficiently," said Jari Margo, Danfoss's head of global technology and supply chain, in a release. "A private LTE network enables us to collect a larger amount of data, as well as new kinds of data. Another incentive is operational safety. The network enables us to transmit video and detect potential hazards with the help of machine vision applications."

In addition, Margo expects the localized network to help the company develop more reliable products. "The primary purpose is to understand when a device is close to malfunctioning," he said. "In our first customer pilot, our goal is to replace the current data transmission network of our large factory complex with a private network that will solve problems related to data transmission capacity, costs and density."

The spectrum for the private network comes from service provider Edzcom (formerly Ukkoverkot). Edzcom specializes in private networks, is based in Finland, and has deployed more than two dozen private LTE networks in Scandinavia.

The hardware and software integration is provided by Etteplan. Danfoss will pay Etteplan for the initial installation, after which it will pay Etteplan monthly. Etteplan is a public company based in Finland that provides engineering, automation, testing, asset management, software and embedded systems solutions to clients across a range of industries. The company currently employs roughly 3,400 people although it did say last month that the majority of its employees could face temporary layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why this matters
Nokia and its competitors need proof points for their private networks initiatives, which OEMs are counting on to supplement their service provider businesses. Last year Nokia boasted that it already runs 120 private wireless networks around the globe, and the Danfoss example shows how a 5G-ready private network can potentially increase efficiency today while preparing a factory to transition to a more automated environment in the 5G future.

The news also provides some insight about private network business models. Although equipment makers can provide the network technology needed for enterprise wireless solutions, successful deployments will often require service providers like Edzcom as well integrators like Etteplan to actually deploy and maintain these networks for end users.

— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse.

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