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Satellite Applications Catapult to Develop UK’s First Private Standalone 5G Network

Kieran Arnold
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The Satellite Applications Catapult will be delivering a ground-breaking communications network across central Milton Keynes as part of the new MK:5G Connected Communities project. The deployment will be the first private standalone 5G network in the UK and will utilise the capabilities of the Catapult’s 5G Step-Out Centre in Westcott as well as a 5G new radio (NR) infrastructure across Milton Keynes. Using the new, enhanced connectivity, the Catapult will demonstrate how 5G can be used for a range of health and social care applications.  

The MK:5G project, which is being led by Milton Keynes Council and funded by SEMLEP under the Local Growth Fund, will demonstrate the need for improved communications in the health, mobility and energy sectors, with the aim of launching proof of concept trials in early 2020.

The Catapult will deploy state of the art 5G infrastructure, supporting a mix of architectures to include the use of satellite connectivity. The Catapult team is one of the key partners involved in the design, deployment and operation of the 5G network, exploiting the capability and investment of the Buckinghamshire LEP and Catapult’s 5G Step-Out Centre, a secure testing environment for 5G satellite and terrestrial capabilities.

As part of the project, the Catapult will develop a case for improving health and social care in the community. It will look at topics such as ambulance connectivity, home monitoring of illnesses, early cancer diagnosis and screening, and telemedicine delivery; all of which can benefit from 5G capabilities.

A second focus area is mobility, which is being led by Milton Keynes Council; this will look at all areas of transport including supporting the deployment of autonomous vehicles across the city. As part of this, the Catapult’s connectivity experts are developing the network capabilities to support delivery robots currently used in Milton Keynes, enabling them to connect to the 5G infrastructure, to improve efficiency and reliability.

Kieran Arnold, Director of Ubiquitous Connectivity at the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “Whereas previous generations focused on connecting people, 5G is all about connecting devices; and the upgrade from 4G to 5G will support a magnitude of different types of devices for numerous applications, with data exchange expected to rise from the 20+MB/sec we see on 4G to 250MB/sec and above with the advent of 5G.

“Delivering the UK’s first private standalone 5G network is a significant and exciting milestone for us, and for the UK communications industry. Features such as network slicing and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type connectivity (mMTC) and ultra-reliable, low-latency connectivity (URLLC) will demonstrate the art of the possible across many sectors. For example, emergency response teams could connect with hospitals via UHD video, while a logistics company could use an intelligent journey scheduler to plot delivery routes based on planned events and current traffic.”

John Vesey, Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “The approach of this project is ideal for ensuring we are delivering exactly what the health and social care sector needs as opposed to imposing technology unnecessarily on users. We know that eradicating all unnecessary ambulance journeys can save the NHS £300m per year, and that improved connectivity can help with this issue. We also have experience of bringing satellite connectivity to screening and telemedicine delivery into homes and we are excited to explore how this ground-breaking private standalone 5G network can enhance these options.”

The MK:5G project currently has an open call for businesses to develop new use cases and innovations with 5G technology; find out more about the opportunity to join the project here. In addition, the Connected Places Catapult, another partner on the project, will be running a 5G accelerator programme for businesses during summer 2020.