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Voda gives Skoda its very own private 5G SA network

Car maker Skoda plans to automate more of its manufacturing processes through the use of a new private 5G standalone (SA) network.

Vodafone Czech Republic will operate the network, which it has deployed at a factory in Skoda’s home town of Mladá Boleslav – the historic and commercial heart of the country’s automotive industry. The network uses kit supplied by Nokia, and will be managed by Skoda’s own IT department, with input from both Vodafone and Nokia.

“We have requirements from individual departments for reliable wireless communication with high availability. The mobile 5G private network will help us, for example, in automating car parking. We will move the manufactured cars to the parking lot without the intervention of the driver only with the help of automatically controlled trucks,” said Martin Polák, Skoda’s professional data network planning coordinator, in a statement earlier this week. “We also plan to use the mobile private network for the automatic upload of software and settings for the car produced.”

There are a couple of interesting points to note from this announcement. The first is that rather than opt for a hybrid 4G/5G network that represents a more gradual upgrade path, Skoda has gone straight for 5G SA instead. It means a fully cloud-native core and no support for any legacy LTE connections that might still be in use. The standalone network will be able to support a vast number of connections, and will support functions like slicing, enabling the auto maker to allocate network resources according to the requirements of different categories of data traffic. In those aforementioned use cases, high-speed and low latency would be necessary to support automated driving from the factory to the car park, but not quite so critical when it comes to uploading software and settings to the vehicle.

Another moderately interesting point is that this could be considered a bit of a coup for Vodafone Czech Republic, given that the country’s longest established and best known car brand chose it over incumbent O2 Czech Republic. Voda has also been chosen instead of T-Mobile, the market leading operator by subscribers and a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, compatriot of Skoda parent Volkswagen Group.

Voda has been pushing hard on its Czech 5G deployment, and its network now covers 70 percent of the population. Its rollout was boosted last year when it shutdown its 3G network in March with the aim of re-farming the spectrum for LTE and 5G. Its aggressive strategy appears to be garnering attention in the enterprise market.

“We really appreciate this strategic cooperation with Skoda Auto. It is an important milestone for us, which only underlines the fact that we are leaders in this area on the Czech market,” said Veronika Brázdilová, vice president for corporate customers at Vodafone Czech.

“Companies can deploy a 5G mobile private network in their location and use it as a cornerstone on the road to digitisation, because the degree of digitalisation today significantly affects the business success of companies and their competitiveness,” she added.

 

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