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9 New 5G Tech and OpenRAN Trials Secure £28m of UK Funding

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 984
5g mast on smartphone uk mobile

The Government has unveiled an additional nine UK technology trials under the 5G Create scheme, which reflects a total investment of £28.3m to help test various new 5G based broadband and wireless technologies and use cases. The biggest winner this time around seems to be Open Radio Access Networks (OpenRAN).

All of this forms part of the wider £200m 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, which began in 2018 with a smaller selection of pilots but has since branched out. The first batch of trials under the new 5G Create scheme were announced last July 2020 and attracted a total investment of £30m (here). Today’s announcement reflects the second batch of trials under that scheme.

NOTE: The £28m consists of £15.2m from the gov and £13.1m from the project partners.

Overall, more than half of the projects in this round will use new OpenRAN technology and thus support the government’s drive toward greater diversification in the 5G supply chain (here). At present if a mobile operator wants to buy mobile equipment then they can often only pick from a few big suppliers (e.g. Ericsson and Nokia), while the ORAN approach could increase the number of suppliers.

The way ORAN does this is by adopting a general-purpose, vendor-neutral hardware and software-defined technology approach (this specifically applies to the RAN side of things – infrastructure, masts and antennae). Vodafone UK have already gone big on this (here) and other mobile operators have major trials, but it needs more suppliers.

By comparison the other trials are much more varied. For example, in London O2’s Project Vista will explore how 5G can provide instant, multi-angle replays via Smartphones’ during stadium events, while The Green Planet AR will work with Sir David Attenborough to demonstrate additional ways that 5G benefits the public by creating a new augmented reality (AR) app for mobile phones.

Meanwhile a Leeds-based TV production company Candour TV will test 5G’s ability to broadcast high quality live content and transfer huge video files from a variety of remote locations, extreme terrains and weather conditions. “This capability, if proven, could see 5G becoming a standard for the film production industry in the UK,” said the Government (DCMS).

Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“5G is about so much more than faster mobile internet speeds so we’re investing millions to help some of Britain’s brightest innovators explore the huge potential of the technology to improve and enrich our lives.

The projects we’ve selected will demonstrate how the blistering speeds of 5G can put some rocket fuel in our economy and help businesses bounce back from the pandemic.”

The full list of new trials can be found below.

Milton Keynes 5G (MK5G)

Government funding: £2,397,243

Total project value: £4,103,022

Location: South East, Milton Keynes 

Milton Keynes Council and its partners will test out 5G applications at Stadium MK, home of MK Dons, to illustrate how it can empower other major venues to boost efficiency and create better experiences for visitors and staff in the future. The trials will include using driverless shuttles and road vehicles for moving people and goods across the site, autonomous surveillance vehicles and drones for enhancing security, and testing out robots and drones for goods delivery and hospitality use.

Eden Universe (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £1,662,881

Total project value: £ 3,338,333

Location: South West, South Cornwall

The Eden Project in Cornwall will explore how 5G and 360 degree video cameras can enhance the visitor experience. Those who are unable to go to the Eden site in person will be able to experience the exhibits and talks from their home, care home, school or anywhere in the world via a desktop, mobile or virtual reality device and be taken on a real-time virtual reality tour.

The local 5G infrastructure will also be used to provide real-time data on core services such as energy and water management. The data will be fed into Eden’s site management systems to ensure its rich collection of plant life remains in good condition.

Connected Cowes (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £826,915

Total project value: £ 1,654,389

Location: South East, Isle of Wight

The Connected Cowes project is looking at how 5G technology can create an immersive yacht racing experience for the sailing community and spectators in Cowes and online, and to widen the audience and appeal of the sport.

5G technology will be used to stream real-time virtual reality video from on-board yachts racing at events from Cowes across multiple classes throughout the summer. This will be used to create engaging content and enable an immersive teaching experience using 5G-powered VR as a gateway to the sport.

5G AMC 2 (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £846,365

Total project value: £ 1,692,733

Location: Scotland, Shetland and Kilsyth

5G AMC 2 (Accelerate, Maximise and Create for Construction) seeks to explore how 5G can enable the use of data to maximise productivity of construction processes. The project will set up a private 5G network at construction firm BAM Nuttall’s regional office in Kilsyth, Scotland and a construction project in Shetland, using cameras, drones, mixed reality and IoT sensors to monitor construction process and track assets.

The project will be an enabler for digital solutions that improve construction productivity within BAM Nuttall and the wider UK construction industry. Additionally, it will help grow UK technical capability in the field of 5G. It will be delivered by a consortium led by BAM Nuttall partnered with AttoCore and Building Research Establishment.

Live and Wild: Filming with 5G (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £1,224,834

Total project value: £ 2,136,420

Location: North East, Leeds

Live & Wild: Filming with 5G presents a series of real and challenging filming scenarios to test 5G’s capacity to support the needs of the documentary film industry in the UK. Filming will take place in a variety of extreme locations and weather conditions across the UK designed to test 5G’s performance to its limit including, caving in the Yorkshire Dales, sea cliff climbing in North Wales and ultra-running across Britain. 

The project will monitor 5G’s resilience, adaptability, reliability and image quality as it livestreams high end video content.  It will also monitor transfer time and performance of raw batch footage sent directly from remote film locations back to the post-production hub.  

Project Vista

Government funding: £1,307,972

Total project value: £2,334,844

Location: London

This project will take full advantage of 5G to deliver new and exciting in-stadium digital experiences. The project will deliver next generation viewing experiences for event spectators by providing live multi-angle HD video streams and interactive content from the event direct to devices in stadia and across the UK. The end goal is to demonstrate consumer demand and deliver the business case to enable 5G-powered sporting events in the near future. The consortium is led by Members Association DTG (Digital TV Group) working in partnership with Digital Catapult, GWS, O2 Telefonica and Rohde & Schwarz.

The Green Planet AR

Government funding: £2,275,498

Total project value: £4,409,162

Location:  London & South West

The project will demonstrate additional ways that 5G benefits the public by creating a groundbreaking and entertaining augmented reality (AR) app for mobile phones. This unique immersive experience will offer an exciting new way for audiences of all ages to learn more about the natural world by streaming scientifically accurate plants and creatures streamed into a number of set locations around the UK. The consortium is led by immersive content company Factory 42 working in partnership with BBC Studios, EE and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 

5G Ports – Port of Felixstowe

Government funding: £1,634,590

Total project value: £ 3,405,776

Location: East, Suffolk Coastal

Working with its partners Three UK, Cambridge University and Blue Mesh Solutions, along with key subcontractors Ericsson and Siemens, the project will test the potential of 5G across two use cases: enabling remote-controlled cranes via the transmission of CCTV and deploying internet of things sensors and artificial intelligence to optimise the predictive maintenance cycle of Felixstowe’s 31 quay-side and 82 yard cranes. Harnessing the speed, low-latency and high-capacity of 5G, the project will demonstrate the productivity and efficiency gains of such technology, whilst reducing unplanned outage.

5G Logistics (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £3,054,994

Total project value: £ 5,268,708

Location: South West, Bristol

The West of England Combined Authority’s 5G Logistics project programme will develop 5G products and services to support operations at Bristol Port and Gravity Smart Campus and demonstrate a smart and dynamic port environment. The project will focus on security, traceability, and tracking of goods within and across extendable virtual boundaries – and between public and private networks.

It will demonstrate how efficiency and productivity could be improved by replacing existing manual scanned barcode identification with automated recognition and real-time location tracking of items within a 5G Internet of Things environment. The project offers the potential for such advances in technology to be implemented industry-wide; including at other ports in the UK, Enterprise Zones or other business parks.

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