MxD adds second private wireless network

When Chicago’s MxD (Digital Manufacturing and Cybersecurity Institute) launched its first private network with AT&T last year, the partnership’s CTO Federico Sciammarella said he was thinking about future experiments with CBRS spectrum. Now the MxD consortium, which includes manufacturing giants like Siemens, Intel and John Deere as well as the U.S. Department of Defense, has launched a CBRS private network with Betacom.

“MxD wants to ensure that we demonstrate and offer a selection of options at our facility for members and visitors,” said Berardino Baratta, MxD VP for Projects and Engineering. “As manufacturers look to adopt cellular, there is no one size fits all solution that they will all choose. MxD wants to ensure that we demonstrate and offer a selection of options at our facility for members and visitors. Our current installation focuses on 4G and 5G using private mmWave spectrum, and Betacom expands this by providing 4G and 5G using public CBRS spectrum.”

Betacom, a telecom construction company which has evolved into a private networks specialist, partnered with Airspan Networks, Druid Software, and a hyperscaler to deliver the MxD network. Betacom CEO Johan Bjorklund said the team has deployed eight Airspan radios so far, and that the core network infrastructure and the edge cloud solution share one server rack. He said Betacom cannot yet name the hyperscaler providing the edge solution.

Google provides the Spectrum Access System for this network, allowing MxD to use the CBRS spectrum under General Authorized Access.

“CBRS expands accessibility for smaller manufacturers and those that aren’t able or willing to acquire private spectrum,” said Baratta. “Other than a few exceptions, all mmWave spectrum is licensed, limiting a manufacturer’s ability to deploy a private network without increased costs and ongoing licensing requirements. There are limitations to CBRS vs. mmWave, primarily lower throughput and higher latency, but for many manufacturers, the cost and accessibility benefits exceed any performance limitations.”

Deploying a private network without a carrier partner can mean lower costs, but it also means someone else has to step in as the wireless expert. That’s the role Betacom wants to fill. 

“We're taking away the complexity by basically allowing enterprises to … own their own private wireless network … without adding one single IT staff member to their organization,” said Bjorklund. 

Bjorklund sees the MxD network as part of the push to bring more factory jobs to the U.S., because manufacturers from several industries will be able to test configurations there and find ways to boost productivity by replacing Ethernet connections with 5G. 

“The opportunity that this collection of organizations has to truly redefine the nature and the direction of manufacturing globally, and to return manufacturing to the U.S., cannot be overstated,” said Bjorklund in a press release.

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In addition to manufacturing industries, Betacom is also focused on the transportation market. The company recently lit up a private network at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport to speed up baggage handling, and Bjorklund said baggage turnaround times have fallen by 22% since launch.

Betacom runs its 5G-as-a-service platform on Druid Software’s Raemis 5G core, which can guarantee quality of service at the device level. Druid has partnered with a number of private wireless network providers, including Corning’s Spidercloud, CTS and Geoverse.