We’ve all heard and read a lot about 5G networks, and I am a strong advocate for innovation in the telecommunications sector. That’s why I find this bit of news especially fascinating: Ericsson and Telefónica have teamed up to develop a private 5G network for Mercedes-Benz. 

Specifically, the custom-built 5G network would improve production at “Factory 56,” Mercedes’ ultra-modern assembly plant in Sindelfingen, a small city in southern Germany. 

“All production systems and machines in the new-build Factory 56 will be connected and operated via secure 5G with gigabit data rates and almost real-time latency times while handling large amounts of data,” according to Ericsson. “The 5G network will enable Mercedes-Benz to boost flexibility, production precision and efficiency as industry digitalization and Internet of Things becomes a reality in car production.” 

Essentially, the 5G network will enable data linking and product tracking on the assembly line, along with process optimization and greater capabilities for rapid changes on short notice to meet constantly changing demands from evolving markets.

From my perspective, this kind of innovation opens the door to an entirely new kind of industrial methodology in which data from the factory floor and the market can be combined and analyzed on the fly, leading to real-time advantages.

Imagine the opportunities: Let’s say the market suddenly wants more cars with auto-dimming mirrors and fast USB charging outlets. In a 5G-enabled factory, those types of modifications would be readily doable. Or let’s say the market wants improvements in essential safety features such as forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Again, a factory equipped with 5G would be capable of responding much more quickly than a factory with traditional systems for exchanging data. 

I genuinely admire the spirit of innovation and invention of this project. The combined efforts of Ericsson, Telefónica and Mercedes-Benz will open doors and blaze new trails for the industrial use of 5G networks. And it raises a serious question: Are industrial networks the future of 5G?

Maybe we’ve been looking at 5G through a prism that’s too narrow. Perhaps industrial applications represent the real future of 5G. It’s interesting to imagine the emergence of purely industrial telecom networks devoted to manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, sales, marketing, distribution and customer service. The possibilities are virtually unlimited, and we shouldn’t be surprised if the future of 5G looks very different from the way we’ve imagined it.