Nokia claims 5G capacity benchmark, enters first phase of 5G project at Port of Zeebrugge

Flurry of 5G-related activity continues with raft of 5G patents and 5G-ready private wireless connectivity for partner ecosystem to accelerate IoT-based innovation

Just as it was completing phase one of a digitisation project at the Port of Zeebrugge with a 5G-ready private wireless network, Finnish comms technology provider Nokia claimed it had hit a milestone in the delivery of enhanced 5G capacity via a software upgrade.

The additional capacity has been achieved via a software upgrade on Nokia’s commercial AirScale solution in a lab test that delivered approximately 3Gbps total downlink cell throughout and was performed using a Sprint 5G network with a software upgrade of E-UTRAN (evolved universal terrestrial radio access) new radio – dual connectivity (EN-DC) and multiuser multiple-input multiple-output (MU-MIMO). Nokia technology has enabled Sprint to launch a 5G service in areas of four US cities – New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Phoenix.

The test, which utilised Sprint’s 2.5GHz spectrum as well as commercial devices such as hotspots, used massive MIMO to achieve 16 layers of MU-MIMO to deliver up to four times the total downlink cell throughput. Typically, MIMO consists of two layers of network capacity. Massive MIMO, which was invented by Nokia Bell Labs, multiplies the capacity of a wireless connection without requiring additional spectrum. Nokia’s AirScale dual-mode massive MIMO for 5G and LTE solutions was used to deliver multi-gigabit cell downlink throughput.

EN-DC allows devices to add throughput to LTE and 5G networks – resulting in higher user throughput. Typically, operators use two radios for LTE and 5G, however, for the test, Nokia used a single AirScale unit.

The service uses existing hardware but requires an upgrade to the software in the basestation which can be performed remotely. This means operators will be able to offer enhanced services without any requirement for site visits to change hardware or transport. The result of the tests, said Nokia, is that when the service is made commercially available, operators could increase significantly their network capacity via a software update without having to invest in additional spectrum.

“The demand for 4G and 5G mobile data continues to rise exponentially and this impacts network capacity,” said president of Nokia Mobile Networks Tommi Uitto. “This test is an important milestone as it will help operators to vastly increase capacity now and in the future, helping to deliver excellent customer experiences while keeping costs to a minimum.” 

Accelerating port innovation and automation

As it was announcing the test, Nokia revealed it had completed the first phase of the Port of Zeebrugge’s 5G-ready, industrial-grade private wireless network deployment. The port will deploy the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud platform to provide private wireless connectivity to more than 100 endpoints across the entire port operations. This is intended to enable Zeebrugge to deliver a range of new and enhanced services that not only improve the port’s operational performance, but which also differentiate it as a leader in port transformation and digitisation.

Following implementation of the private wireless network, the Port of Zeebrugge will be able to track, analyse and manage connected devices across multiple port-based applications in real time. The end-to-end, high-performance, 5G-ready network will accelerate port innovation and automation with deployment of internet of things (IoT) devices, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and drones.

The network is now being used for connectivity with tugboats, air pollution detectors, security cameras and quay sensors. The high-bandwidth and low-latency connectivity will also be used during the upcoming construction of a new sea lock and during building and maintenance of offshore wind farms. Phase one has established increased automation in Zeebrugge’s outer port area. Phase two, due for completion in mid-2020, will focus on the inner port.

Several external suppliers have also signed up to the network, which will be used by port-based companies for dispatching, connectivity with straddle carriers, track and trace systems, and integrated communications. In the project, Nokia partnered with wireless connectivity provider Citymesh to deliver the private wireless network, and which will continue to assist with end-to-end support and network commercialisation.

“Introduction of an advanced private wireless network will act as a beacon for our partners to develop and deliver new solutions right across the logistics value chain,” said Rick Goetinck, CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge.

“The introduction of a 5G-ready platform at the Port of Zeebrugge brings benefits to a wide range of stakeholders across local enterprises, ancillary shipping businesses and government. The Port of Zeebrugge is an ultra-modern logistics centre that serves European and intercontinental markets, and our investment in hyper-fast connectivity can only improve the competitive position of our port.”

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