Initial 5G Network Integration for Coastal Connectivity Complete

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5G RuralDorset is a ground-breaking project aimed at understanding how next generation connectivity can help people lead safer and more prosperous lives in rural communities. The project aims to show how 5G can make Dorset a better place to live, work and visit.

Connectivity along the coast can often be poor which hampers emergency response. By deploying the digital infrastructure, a number of trial sites will demonstrate use cases ranging from agri-robotics to improving coastal public safety amongst others. One of the key roles of the Satellite Applications Catapult in the project has been to architect and integrate the components of the 5G network.

Despite the disruption from the pandemic, members of the Catapult’s Ubiquitous Connectivity (UC) team – Panos, Marilena and Kieran – have worked tirelessly to integrate various 5G equipment and satellite communication solutions with the Catapult’s 5G core network at Westcott, which will be deployed in Dorset to improve coastal connectivity. In addition, Angel and Ashweeni have developed a crowd sensing application to determine the presence of crowds at different locations, such as popular beaches, for safety purposes.

Recent Milestones

Using the Catapult’s core network at Westcott and with Neutral Networks assistance in setting up Radio Solutions, the team has recently successfully tested 5G Stand Alone (5GSA) operation at 3.5GHz, where 5G radio-waves can travel several miles and deliver greater levels of data transfer, at a theoretical 900 megabits per second (Mbps). This enables incredibly fast connectivity, which has a wide range of implications for improving efficiency and safety in the area.

Testing has now moved on to 700MHz. This lower frequency means a single antenna can provide coverage to several square miles with a lower data transfer of a theoretical 250 Mbps. This is vital for our aim to deliver the connectivity to support sea and coastal rescue.

In order to optimise the 5G deployment, the team has also integrated and tested equipment which will host distributed network functions in Dorset. This approach is a key component of the project which allows the data transfer between the device and internet to happen in Dorset rather than travelling via the 5G core at Westcott. The result is that the end-user applications will benefit from ultra-low latency and high data rates.

Work carried out at Westcott has resulted in the successful testing and integration of base stations into the 5G Core Network in the Catapult’s 5G Step out Centre. The team has also prepared and tested the network security equipment that will be installed inside the cabinets on-site, to provide a secure end to end infrastructure. They have now been shipped to Dorset to be installed by Excelerate who are leading the deployment in the field.

On the application development front, a crowd sensing application has been developed with the aim to be integrated within the digital signage supplied by Anomaly. A Surf Condition Monitoring System (SCMS) is being supplied by JET Engineering System Solutions to be situated along the Jurassic Coast. JET is also providing the UK’s first SA N28 5G-Ethernet Router/Modem to provide connectivity between each of the digital signs, the crowd sensing application, and for each SCMS. The digital signages will be deployed at multiple locations in Dorset.

By providing the infrastructure for the connection, the Catapult is laying the foundations for resilient connectivity in Dorset, which can be rolled out to similar hard-to-reach areas when proven successful.

We are also working in other areas of the project, leading on research into Neutral Hosting options and supporting on the Future of Food trials.

More about the Network

Standalone vs Non-Standalone 5G Architecture

There are two 5G network architectures: Non-Standalone (NSA) and Standalone (SA).

A 5G NSA network combines a 5G Radio Access Network with existing 4G infrastructure. It provides high-speed connectivity and early adoption of the 5G technology, as 5G NSA handsets are already available on the market.

In contrast, 5G SA networks have a complete 5G architecture, combining a 5G Radio Access Network with a 5G Core Network. 5G SA enables the three main use cases designed for 5G: Ultra Low-Latency Communications (uRLLC), Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC).

The Catapult operates multiple networks at its 5G Step-Out Centre in Westcott. One of the 5G Core Networks is being used to power the Coastal Connectivity part of the 5G RuralDorset project.

What does registration in 3.5GHz and 700MHz mean?

5G operates in multiple frequency bands: 

  • low band is <1GHz (also known as sub-Gigahertz),
  • mid-band is from 2.5GHz to 3.5GHz,
  • and high band is from 24GHz to 39GHz.

Each band has different factors to consider when using:

  • The lower the frequency, the further it travels. For example, a 700MHz base station provides coverage to a much wider area than one that uses 3.5GHz.
  • The higher the frequency, the more bandwidth available and faster the communication. For example, in 3.5GHz we can send more data between two devices in less time than if we use the 700MHz band.

When talking about registration through a frequency band, it means the device transmitting in this band is able to authenticate the network, accessing the services provided such as data transmission and phone calls.

More about 5G RuralDorset

For up-to-date news and information about the 5G RuralDorset project, please subscribe to the 5GRuralDorset mailing list here.