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Dell: Private 5G extends coverage for large factories

  • Dell VP Vaz told us that private 5G use in factories is ramping up

  • Cellular coverage gaps in factories can cause delays during medical emergencies

  • Dell's findings match Verizon's and those of Cradlepoint 

Wi-Fi is no longer cutting it in manufacturing as factories become more automated and private 5G applications come to the fore, according to Andrew Vaz, VP of product management in Dell’s telecom systems business.

“Really [it happened] in the last six to nine months, it’s actually more of a recent trend,” said Vaz, who talked to Fierce last month in Barcelona.

“I couldn’t even say this at the beginning of last year... but [recently] we definitely have seen an uptick. We’ve all been waiting to see these private 5G users crop up," Vaz said.

Dell, like other operators and vendors, is finding that factories are a major area where private 5G use is growing. “I didn’t realize how big a lot of these factories were, or how automated they are,” Vaz said.

Wi-Fi connectivity is sometimes no longer cutting it for industrial applications and services. Vaz said he asked companies, ”Why did you make the the switch to private 5G?”

One reason is simply coverage. “They had problems in factories with Wi-Fi where they lost coverage or had a dead spot so the forklift stops — that messes up the whole chain," he said.

In addition, cell phone signals can have difficulty penetrating walls inside the factory. According to Vaz, this challenge has actually caused fatalities because employees have had to run to get to an area with cellphone coverage — either inside or outside the factory — in the event of an accident. “We’ve heard it's becoming a medical prerogative to make sure there’s cell phone coverage,” Vaz noted.

A factory reset

These Dell observations very much fit with recent commentary from Verizon and Ericsson’s Cradlepoint enterprise arm, which discussed its 5G private networking deal with Toyota for forklift parts factory in the United States.

At the show, Kelly Dorsey, VP of corporate communications at Cradlepoint, told Silverlinings that it was the first Ericsson 5G private network that was installed by an integrator rather than a communications service provider. She said Toyota is using the private network to supplement and replace Wi-Fi in its facilities. The manufacturer has replaced Wi-Fi handheld scanners with 5G scanners on the factory floor.

According to Dorsey, the Wi-Fi was giving Toyota a headache with “uneven coverage” in the factory, Dorsey said, but 5G fixed this issue.

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