m3connect Builds A Private LTE Mobile Network For Autonomous Vehicles In Factory Logistics.   

As part of the research project “Autonomous Connected Logistics,” m3connect, in close collaboration with project partners Stäubli and the BMW Group, has established a private mobile network and tested it under real-world conditions. The focus of this application was on robustness and simplicity of setup. In a separate subproject, another use case for factory logistics was tested in a 5G campus network provided by m3connect. 

After completing the tests, it is evident that mobile communication can be an alternative for providing data services in factory logistics, especially in expansive outdoor areas, with minimal installation efforts.  

For the “AutoBox” application, an autonomous transport vehicle responsible for container transport within the factory, a private LTE network was used to ensure seamless connectivity. The network maintained functionality for users in 24/7 operation with consistently low latencies. The typical quick handovers between different transmitters enabled uninterrupted data communication even on the complex test route between production halls. 

“Although we initially faced some issues with lighting and wiring in the factory, the LTE network’s operational reliability was consistently maintained during the test drives. In principle, the area could have been covered with a dozen Wi-Fi transmitters. However, Wi-Fi often experiences interruptions when transitioning between different access points, and, for instance, parked trucks could have a more significant impact on signals. Thanks to dedicated frequencies and higher power, more area can be covered with fewer transmitters, and transitions between transmitters are so fast that practically no interruptions occur. This can lead to cost savings.” – Justin Eichenlaub, Head of Cellular Solutions, m3connect 

This means that no data cable is needed to mount a control station at any location. 

Other IoT concepts were also implemented in addition to the required AGV control functions. Smart warning lights were linked to “Edge Computing Services,” which could warn other road users in real-time based on the vehicle’s movement data. These warning lights could be positioned freely in the field by connecting to the mobile network. 

The data from the mobile network provided a wealth of additional information. A custom interface was used to integrate the vehicle controller’s data into the same application. With the data collected and provided by the mobile network, the productivity of autonomous vehicles could be monitored in real-time. Weekly exports of real-time data allowed performance evaluation based on user feedback on-site, which informed decision making as the research project progressed. 

It became evident that lower installation efforts, thanks to high transmission power in a dedicated spectrum, offer significant advantages over Wi-Fi, especially in this project. Usage data was also transferred to a cloud. Here, m3connect leveraged its experience with heterogeneous networks and managing thousands of locations worldwide. m3connect applied existing concepts of SD-WAN-based networking to the mobile network world, allowing extensive remote control of all services and devices. 

For the LTE network in this subproject, LTE base stations from m3connect partners Accelleran and Attocore’s AttoEPC were used. 

Automated Driving AutoBox  

© Copyright BMW GROUP


About m3connect 

From Wi-Fi pioneer to market leader. Since 2001, m3connect has evolved into one of the largest Wireless Service Providers in Europe, with offices in Aachen, Karlsruhe, Munich, San Francisco, Sibenik (Croatia), and the United Arab Emirates. Globally, m3connect serves roughly 13,000 locations for its customers in over 23 countries and, as a visionary in cloud technologies for more than 20 years, continues to expand its in-house platform. As a technology leader, m3connect provides wireless, best-in-class internet connectivity with flexible design. Utilizing state-of-the-art technologies like WLAN, private LTE, and 5G, m3connect creates innovative software solutions such as SD-WAN and various digital applications. Its range of services includes digital signage, guest infotainment systems, VoIP, VoD, and location-based services. m3connect is also a platform developer and integrates its solutions into the existing processes of its customers. 


About Accelleran 

The Belgian company Accelleran, based in Antwerp, offers OpenRAN software solutions for operators of 5G and private LTE networks. With Accelleran’s unique software architecture, customers can leverage the extensive potential of software-defined networks, network virtualization, and RAN intelligence to manage private, public, and neutral-host networks optimally. Accelleran’s dRAX system provides proven container-based software components to implement applications with multi-vendor, intelligent, and disaggregated OpenRAN elements based on leading standards such as the O-RAN Alliance. 


About AttoCore 

AttoCore develops ultra-mobile core network software technology that can be deployed in consumer, professional, government, and enterprise spaces. Deployment can be as a standalone network or interconnected with existing network services to extend wireless services anywhere in the world. AttoCore was founded in September 2014, and the team has more than 30 years of experience in developing 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile core software.