John Deere invests $500k in private 5G licenses to support flexible factory networks

With FCC licenses it bought at auction, John Deere can move ahead now with 5G rather than wait 5-7 years for carriers to get around to providing it in rural areas.

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John Deere, the $35.5 billion maker of farm equipment, is planting the seeds of company-owned 5G cellular networking in some of its manufacturing plants after investing half-a-million dollars in wireless licenses at an FCC auction last year.

The company says that having a piece of wireless spectrum more or less to itself is key to updating certain of its production facilities. Deere bought citizens broadband radio service (CBRS) licenses in five Iowa and Illinois counties at that give it virtually unfettered use of the local CBRS bandwidth for private 5G.

More flexible than wired networks

Using campus-wide private 5G networks free of contention from other users, the company wants to dramatically reduce the number of wired connections needed to network its heavy production machinery. This gives the company more flexibility to make network changes vs wired networks, according to Dan Liebfried, director of automation and autonomy for the company’s intelligent-solutions group. It also can enable completely new use cases, he says.

The main idea is to let the company adapt its factory production lines more quickly and easily in response to changes in the products it makes than it could with wired networks. Over the course of a given year, Deere may have to do this multiple times, according to Liebfried, who said that 5G wireless networking could dramatically simplify reconfiguration by getting around a lot of manual work that would be required with one that is hardwired.

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