Bristol to launch a live 5G test bed in March 2018

A live 5G-based proof of concept designed to test and validate smart urban applications over next-generation mobile networks will be deployed in Bristol city centre as part of a joint research programme between the University of Bristol, BT and Nokia.

Using leading research expertise from the University of Bristol, and cutting-edge 5G network solutions and radio access points from Nokia combined with spectrum from BT, the test network will run over Bristol City Council’s dedicated fibre infrastructure around Bristol’s Millennium square. It will connect to the ‘Bristol Is Open’ smart city platform and be backed by the “We The Curious” science centre, which will be used for public demonstrations of the technology.

The University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab has recently received funding from the ‘5G Testbeds and Trials Programme’ from the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to establish the ‘5GUK Test Networks’. Over the coming months the Test Network will be used to explore and validate the deployment of 5G architecture that integrates existing technologies with innovations such as Massive MIMO radio access solutions, software-defined networking, network slicing and edge computing nodes functionalities. These technologies allow operators to use multiple antennas to boost the capacity of wireless networks, and to split a single physical network into multiple virtual networks, delivering reliable and high-capacity services to several applications and vertical sectors.

The initial deployment will examine the optimum models for 5G as part of a future urban dense networks that will maximise coverage and speed, using a combination of research and commercial solutions such as Nokia’s AirScale and AirFrame infrastructure. Future activity will focus on the use of 5G as an enabler of ‘Internet of Things’ technologies, examining areas such as immersive tourism and connected transport.

The initial test-bed deployment will focus on Millennium Square in central Bristol, with future plans to expand the trial across the city of Bristol, and also to the region such as Bath city centre.

Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol and Chief Scientific Officer of Bristol Is Open, said: “We are delighted to have been selected by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to host one of the 5GUK Test Networks.

“Recently announced as the UK’s top ‘Smart City’, Bristol is well placed to conduct this pioneering work that will use innovative network and wireless technologies that will help improve services, businesses and infrastructure in our cities and region. We have long-standing relationships with both the BT Labs and Nokia’s Bell Labs Research, and with this new collaboration we are looking forward to demonstrating the very significant advances resulting from introducing 5G mobile technology.”

Neil J. McRae, Chief Architect, BT, said, “Connecting our customers and communities together is at the heart of BT’s purpose and we have demonstrated the power of 5G capabilities in driving our ambition in our labs. Now, we’re gaining a real-world understanding of how 5G can be used within dense urban environments. This is crucial to building meaningful use-cases for future macro-scale 5G networks. 5G is teaching us that collaboration is essential and we’re pleased to be working with experts from Nokia and the University of Bristol to lead research into technologies such as Massive MIMO and Network Convergence and enhance our understanding of the role 5G networks will play in building the connected cities of the future.”

Cormac Whelan, the CEO of Nokia UK&I, said, “The importance of applying 5G in the real world and showing what the combination of new and existing technologies can do for people, is not to be underestimated. As with all new technology, we need to explore its capabilities and demonstrate how it could benefit enterprises and consumers.”