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City of Sunderland to Build Private Small Cell 5G Mobile Network

Thursday, October 21st, 2021 (6:00 am) - Score 1,200
5g mobile wireless mast tower uk

The UK Sunderland City Council (SCC) has today announced that they’ve awarded a 20-year strategic partnership to BAI Communications, which among other things is to be tasked with designing, building and operating next generation digital infrastructure including a private 5G small cell network.

The coastal city of Sunderland (Tyne and Wear, England) has already won both the UK Smart City of the Year 2020 accolade and the Connected Britain Digital Council of the Year 2021 award for their existing work. On top of that CityFibre are busy investing £62m to deploy a new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network across the city (here) by the end of 2025, which is in addition to Virgin Media’s existing gigabit network.

Suffice to say that Sunderland is already doing quite a lot on the digital infrastructure and smart city front, which looks set to be enhanced by the new partnership with BAI Communications, which is a global provider of mobile infrastructure. The first phase of that deal will see a backbone of “private5G small cell connectivity, based on a “neutral host model“, being established within the city by Summer 2022.

The new high speed 5G coverage will aim to “provide a platform for business growth and innovation, supporting the Government’s levelling up agenda by bringing substantial social and economic benefits to its residents, businesses and visitors“, including the creation of over 100 jobs.

NOTE: A Neutral Host system typically allows a third-party to build the infrastructure (often indoors) that mobile operators can then potentially harness (like 4G on the London Underground), as opposed to using operator-specific kit and services.

Patrick Melia, CEO of Sunderland City Council, said:

“This is an incredibly significant milestone in the development and future of Sunderland Our Smart City. We are very much looking forward to our 20-year strategic partnership with BAI, as its team helps us realise our ambitions and make our goals a reality. We are confident the benefits of this partnership will reach every resident, organisation and business within our city and indeed the wider area.”

The partnership is being supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and some public investment via the UK Government’s £900m Getting Building Fund. Apparently, greater high speed 5G mobile connectivity will also be complemented by other networking technologies to enable Sunderland to deliver transformative digital services for communities and sectors across the City at much greater scale.

Sunderland’s Other Smart City Technologies

Manufacturing and logistics – The project will unlock further Industry 4.0 benefits, such as increasing supply chain agility through further development of self-driving vehicle trials, which includes the use of autonomous heavy goods vehicles for transfer of goods between the Nissan supply chain and the Sunderland Nissan car manufacturing plant.

Education – Better connectivity will support online and remote learning across Sunderland’s schools, following on from the success at Hudson Road Primary School, ensuring young people have the digital skills they need to enter the future workforce.

Social care – The greater reach and capacity of the new connectivity will enable existing deployment of assistive technologies for vulnerable people to scale significantly. These technologies utilise sensors in the homes of vulnerable people to support independent living.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. MilesT says:

    Would this be a first/early at scale deployment of 26Ghz? Will there be enough device support for that yet?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Unlikely, Ofcom has yet to auction mmW bands off for that purpose with 5G mobile.

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    Is this going to be stand alone 5G or NSA (Delivering speeds which 4G+ should) like everyone else is using?

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