• Chemicals group concocting a 5G-based upgrade to network at major plant, with DT involved in pilots.
  • Exec talks up need for low-latency IIoT applications; on-message with DT digitisation push.

Deutsche Telekom finds on-campus chemistry with BASF

Deutsche Telekom finds on-campus chemistry with BASF

Source: BASF

German chemicals giant BASF is trialling campus network technology with Deutsche Telekom (DT), in a prospective boost for the Group’s go-to-market push around next-generation private connectivity for businesses.

Christoph Wegner, Chief Digital Officer at BASF, flagged DT’s involvement in an ongoing private wireless network pilot during T‑Systems’ recent Accelerate Digital Now virtual event, which focused on pushing digitisation forward at large enterprise clients in the wake of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

He highlighted the chemicals group’s “excitement” around industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) use‑cases, saying BASF had “more than 300 sites with more than 1,000 production clusters and thousands of independent production lines, so the lever for digitisation in this world is massive”.

“What we need is sensors and actors and we need millions and maybe multi-millions of them… We have to be able to feed the measurements back into action and this is only possible with high technology, with 5G, with low latency. So this is for us super-crucial… For us, this is one of the big projects, the big levers we see in our world, in the world of chemistry.”

— Wegner.

Private time

The move is not just significant as a big‑name reference for DT as it seeks to expand its campus network client base and begin monetisation of 5G investments in Germany.

Strategically, BASF is also one of the national champions that have successfully driven efforts to acquire and control their own 5G spectrum, leading to Germany’s liberalisation of localised, mid‑band (3.7GHz/3.8GHz) rights for agricultural, industrial, and research organisations in 2019 (plus an expected release of higher-band concessions, with similar aims).

In early‑2019, BASF was described in the German media as having “snubbed” DT and main rival Vodafone Germany by moving to acquire spectrum for a new wireless network at its massive, 10 kilometre-square complex in Ludwigshafen, Rhineland‑Palatinate. However, the pilot suggests operators are not being cut out of the campus network loop entirely.

BASF has already installed a private LTE network at the Ludwigshafen plant, enabling automated guided vehicles and other networked devices, but without the throughput, slicing, and low-latency advantages offered by 5G. Airspan Networks (base stations), Blackned (private network solution), and Ridux (core) flagged involvement in the 4G network during 2019.

The pilot with DT suggests 5G-infused plans for expansion and enhancement are now in the BASF pipeline. DT recently said it and main technology partner Ericsson were planning “joint customer tests” of 5G Standalone-based campus network solutions by the end of 2020, but without naming the clients they had signed up.

BNetzA: local network applications top 40

According to a spokesperson for Germany’s Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Networks Agency/BNetzA), at 30 April 2020, 43 local 5G network applications had been submitted to the regulator, and 37 granted. This is higher than some had predicted in the run-up to the licences’ release.

BASF is one of three businesses (alongside Mugler and LS Telcom) to have so far made their allocations public. Other groups that have been mooted as likely to buy rights include Bosch, BMW, Daimler, Lufthansa, Siemens, and Volkswagen.

Beyond liberalisation of 3.7GHz/3.8GHz airwave rights, the BNetzA spokesperson confirmed plans to make 24.25GHz–27.5GHz concessions available for local 5G applications, although no date has been set. “Statements from various commentators are currently being evaluated in order to develop a flexible allocation process”, he said.

Operators’ workaround

Operators had been critical of the BNetzA’s ‘industry band’ plan, but, despite failing to block it, continue to pitch themselves as a ‘safe pair of hands’ on campus networks and push for end-to-end responsibility across connectivity, service, and solutions. Presumably, however, the loss of spectrum exclusivity comes with an impact on network responsibility, and therefore margin.

In March 2020, Vodafone Business, the operator’s multinational corporate arm, indicated it had secured a managed services role, alongside Nokia, in a private 5G network trial by Lufthansa Technik (Vodafonewatch, #185). DT has flagged that a network it has deployed for BMW’s factory in Leipzig, alongside Ericsson, “includes a 5G dual-slice solution that can also integrate the industry spectrum”.

Antje Williams, Senior Vice-President of 5G Campus Networks at DT, recently positioned industry bands as a “component that we would introduce in our network itself and we would add our own frequencies on top. She also indicated that operator’s would have a role in selecting the “right frequencies” for clients, based on their needs. It is not yet clear, however, how this will marry with the greater autonomy and responsiveness sought by businesses when seeking to gain their own spectrum rights.

DT campus network activity: an overview

  • For enterprise customers, DT and other operators are positioning campus network solutions as a High Performance Connectivity component, alongside High Performance Compute (including edge), in enterprises’ digitisation foundations. Currently, the handful of deployments it has disclosed include tests and remain 4G-dominated, so are limited in terms of capability. However, DT has pledged to ramp up 5G Standalone activity over the coming months.
Strategic partnerEricsson
 Source: DT.

Solution partners

EK Automation: on automated guided vehicle systems.

Endress+Hauser: connected sensors.

Konica Minolta: lightweight augmented reality glasses.

Named deployments

BMW Group: DT/Ericsson-supported network at Leipzig plant. “Initially” LTE-based. In operation as of February 2020.

BorgWarner Oroszlány: Magyar Telekom/Ericsson-supported 4G network at automotive component plant. Being tested, as of December 2019. “Could be upgraded to 5G”.

Graz University of Technology: Magenta Telekom-supported 5G campus network, to go live by end-June 2020. 19 partners involved.

OSRAM: DT/Ericsson-supported, dual-sliced campus network at Schwabmünchen, announced in February 2019. Initially LTE-based. Combined with DT edge cloud (EdgAIR).

RWTH Aachen University: Connected Industry Center, ostensibly DT’s main testbed.

Technical University of Ostrava: campus network to be supported by T‑Mobile Czech Republic and go live by end-June 2020. “Further expansion to follow after launch”.

University of Zagreb: 4G/5G testbed for Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, supported by Hrvatski Telekom.

ZF Friedrichshafen: DT/Ericsson-supported network. Described as test in early-2019.

Products

Campus Network L: Large customer-focused. Uses dedicated antennas and servers for “exclusive” local core network.

Campus Network M: Focused on SMEs. Public network/VPN-based.

Campus Network S: Smaller customer-focused. Geared towards “improved public mobile communications coverage”.