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Ford plans private 4G/5G testing network in CBRS band

Private networks are increasingly seen as the short-term way – before innovations like network slicing become realistic – for enterprises to get the LTE and 5G services they need, rather than being constrained by the way MNOs build out their consumer-centric networks.

US car giant Ford is the latest to plan a private cellular network which it can design and manage to support its specific requirements, in a development that does not even have to involve the MNO at the basic level of providing spectrum, since Ford will use the unlicensed tier of the USA’s new 3.5 GHz CBRS band.

The automaker will use the 4G/5G network to test connected vehicle services in its Dearborn, Michigan campus. It will use equipment from Dell, Juniper and Ericsson, including eight Ericsson Radio Dot indoor small cells for the campus buildings.

Ford provided an outline of its plans in an FCC filing in which it requested permission to build its network in CBRS spectrum. Some industries are even contemplating acquiring localized licenses for the licensed access tier of the three-layered CBRS system. Auctions will take place next year but deployments in the shared spectrum will begin this year.

Ford argued in its filing: “In the connected car, telematics monitor safety and efficiency, while navigation, infotainment and self-driving transform the driving experience.” The company also said that it wanted to gain experience “with installation and operation of a private cellular network for connected vehicle services”.

The company is a member of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), which is investigating ways to support advanced driving services and automated vehicles using 5G.

Other companies looking to cut the MNO out of the private network scenario completely by using CBRS shared spectrum include cableco Charter, which plans to test a massive private LTE network near its offices in Denver. Elsewhere in the world, major auto makers are lobbying for their own spectrum to build private networks and in Germany, they will have the opportunity to use spectrum in 3.7 GHz which has been earmarked for industrial 5G use.

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