Orange and Ericsson will deploy an indoor 5G network and transform the facility into the “factory of the future”

Industry 4.0 has long been touted as one of the main drivers of 5G deployment. The new technology, with its incredibly low latency and high capacity, is set to open the door for numerous industrial applications, utilising smart sensors, AI, machine learning, and more to revolutionise manufacturing. 


However, with 5G still very much in its infancy and with limited deployment worldwide, specific deployments that truly demonstrate 5G’s capabilities when it comes to industry are few and far between.


Now, French electronics manufacturer Lacroix Group has selected Orange, who in turn are working with Ericsson, to install an indoor 5G network for its factory in Montrevault-sur-Evre, in the Loire Valley. Alongside this deployment, the companies are working together to build a brand new “factory of the future” in nearby Beaupréau, which will be build on the learnings gained from the Montrevault-sur-Evre site. The new factory is set to open at the end of 2021.


Lacroix focusses on embedded systems and connected equipment for automotive, home automation, aircraft, industrial, and health sectors, as well as connected equipment like smart meters and lighting.


“The aim is to build a new French flagship of electronics, a symbol of industrial renewal in France with a European or even a global reach,” said Lacroix in a statement. “We will be able to increase our competitiveness in the traditional markets for industrial electronic systems and meet the specific challenges of promising new markets such as mobility and industrial IoT.”


Orange described the factory as a “window into the future of industry”. So far, the operator has installed four of Ericsson’s Dot antennae (specialised for indoor use) inside the existing plant, set to work with the existing 2.6 GHz spectrum allocated to them by French regulator ARCEP.


One of the major benefits that Lacroix hopes to realise from its new factory is modular production which can easily be switched. 


“The reliability of wireless connectivity will provide more flexibility in the organization of machines. The installation of the production islands in the factory may eventually be modified according to the type of production needed,” explained Orange.


Private network deployments for industry are heating up across Europe. In the UK, Vodafone is working with car manufacturer Ford to deploy a private 5G network at their factory, while also working with Centrica Storage to deliver the country’s first 5G private network for the energy sector. Meanwhile, in Germany, 74 private 5G licences had been awarded in September, showing the scale of this increasingly exciting area.


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