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O2 5G network to support Millbrook CAV trials

O2 will activate 59 5G sites in June to support trials of connected and autonomous vehicles at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire

O2 will officially switch on its 5G network in June 2019 when it integrates 59 existing mobile sites and 89 small cells into public mobile network infrastructure, supporting trials of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

The on-site network at Millbrook, which is run by wireless provider Dense Air, is already being used as part of the government-backed AutoAir 5G project, which is seeking to accelerate the adoption of CAVs in the UK.

Alongside network engineering firm Atkins, O2 will formally join the AutoAir consortium, which besides Dense Air and Millbrook consists of Airspan Networks, Blu Wireless, Real Wireless, the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, and the research and development (R&D) unit of motorsport team McLaren.

“5G will play a key role in how our country develops over the next few years. If implemented properly, 5G has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and enable a new host of technologies, including self-driving vehicles,” said O2 CTO Brendan O’Reilly.

“That’s why we’re delighted to be supporting the trial activity at Millbrook, alongside ambitious partners who share our vision of building a truly mobile Britain.”

The operator will supply full 5G connectivity across the site using the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum it acquired in the 2018 Ofcom spectrum auction, ahead of the first phase of its consumer 5G roll-out in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London towards the end of 2019.

The AutoAir testbed at Millbrook has already demonstrated the potential of 5G in supporting the operation of CAVs and other intelligent, connected transport systems.

Earlier in 2019 it played host to a demonstration session which saw a McLaren 570S coupé receive and send data at a rate of 1Gbps while driving round the test track at speeds of up to 160mph. The tests also showed real-time ultra-HD 4K video sharing between a network of moving cars.

This was possible thanks to the low-latency and high capacity inherent in 5G mobile networks, which will eventually allow vehicles to transmit large amounts of data to intelligent, cloud-based systems to improve road safety and help traffic authorities monitor and manage road conditions better – at least in theory.

“O2’s integration and commercialisation of the 5G network at Millbrook to support both public and private mobile use cases is a world first and will be a reference deployment for the UK mobile industry as it moves to support for 5G applications for Industry 4.0, large enterprise and government,” said Paul Senior, CEO of Dense Air and chief strategy officer of Airspan Networks.

“Atkins participation in the project ensures that the lessons learned from building a hyper dense 5G network are translated into the design and engineering rules for next generation communication networks for transportation corridors.”

Read more about CAVs

  • The UK has turned itself into a global leader for connected and autonomous vehicles, but its position is at risk because of Brexit, a new report warns.
  • The Department for Transport has issued guidance on trial safety and transparency for self-driving cars, and is sticking by its pledge to have self-driving cars on Britain’s roads in the next two years.
  • Simulating realistic environments using deep learning to enable self-driving cars to learn the rules of the road will prove more useful than any amount of real-world practice.

Read more on Mobile networking

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