Port of Felixstowe lands funding for UK government 5G trial

UK’s largest and busiest container port to test the potential of 5G across two use cases: enabling remotely controlled cranes and optimising predictive maintenance though IoT and AI

Hutchison Ports’ Port of Felixstowe has been selected as part of the government’s 5G trials and testbeds programme to drive investment and innovation in 5G and to support the development of new use cases and commercial deployment.

Strategically located on the UK’s southeast coast and within easy reach of major ports in northwest continental Europe, the Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s first purpose-built container-handling facility, and is also the country’s largest and busiest container port.

Its latest phase of development, Berths 8 & 9, provides additional deep-water capacity for the world’s largest container ships and, with three rail terminals, the port also has the busiest and biggest intermodal rail freight facility in the UK. The Port of Felixstowe is a member of Hutchison Ports, the port and related services division of CK Hutchison Holdings, which is the owner of UK telco and 5G operator Three UK.

The £3.4m project has received £1.6m from the government as part of 5G Create, a competition to support innovators exploring new uses for 5G to improve people’s lives and boost UK businesses. Using a 5G private network installed by Three UK, the trial programme will see Felixstowe become the largest UK port to deploy 5G technology and the internet of things (IoT) to enhance productivity, efficiency and safety across its core operations.

Working with its partners Three UK, Cambridge University and Blue Mesh Solutions, along with key subcontractors Ericsson and Siemens, the Port of Felixstowe will test the potential of 5G across two use cases: enabling remotely controlled cranes via the transmission of CCTV; and deploying IoT sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise the predictive maintenance cycle of Felixstowe’s 31 quayside and 82 yard cranes. 

Harnessing the potential speed, low latency and high capacity of 5G, the project will aim to demonstrate the productivity and efficiency gains of such technology, while reducing unplanned outage.

Chris Lewis, Hutchison Ports UK chief executive officer, said the company was delighted to be part of the 5G Create programme. “Being the largest UK port to introduce 5G technology will allow the Port of Felixstowe to deploy innovative technologies to boost efficiency and improve safety for our workforce,” he said. “It ties in well with government policy to create a network of freeports to act as hotbeds for innovation and to act as hubs for global trade.”

The Port of Felixstowe, together with Hutchison Ports’ Harwich International Port, is also part of the Freeport East project team to create a major freeport centred on the two east coast ports.  Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, said: “We want to unlock 5G’s potential to revolutionise a wide range of UK industries and 5G Ports is just one project the government is backing to achieve this.

“Our ports will be more vital than ever as we forge an ambitious new global trading position for the UK post-Brexit, so I’m eager to see what 5G can do to maximise efficiency at Britain’s biggest and busiest container port in Felixstowe.”

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