Dense Air, the neutral host operator of the connected 5G testbed at Millbrook originally created by the DCMS 5G testbed and trials project AutoAir, has announced a major upgrade of the hyper dense, high performance 4G and 5G network.
The network will be one of the first, and the largest standalone 5G neutral host network’s in Europe. Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) developers will have access to the latest technology, including low latency connectivity, network slicing and the opportunity to test vehicles in more advanced networks which are available in key export markets.
These enhanced network technologies will be deployed at Millbrook’s 700 acre independent test facility in Bedfordshire in early 2021. In addition to its extensive test tracks and laboratories, Millbrook is home to the UK Government Controlled Urban Testbed for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – part of CAM Testbed UK.
The AutoAir network is being migrated to commercial grade Open RAN, disaggregated RAN and cloud native 5GC based 3GPP 5G SA (standalone) technologies, making extensive use of Airspan Networks’ product suite. This deployment supports the UK Government’s supply chain diversity initiative and is compliant with emerging O-RAN standards which seek to democratise the supply of Radio Access Units within an open source platform.
The network will operate on spectrum at 4G Band 40 (2.3 GHz), 4G Band 3 (1.8 GHz) and 5G Band n77 (3.8 & 4.2 GHz) under pioneering shared access licenses. This will allow private networks to work with their own allocation of radio spectrum for test and development, whilst also supporting public access from mobile network operators. The n77 band is the same as is already in commercial operation in Japan and which is currently being auctioned in the USA by the Federal Communications Commission. This means that users will be able to test CAVs in the UK, using the latest network frequencies, before exporting vehicles to Japan and the USA.
With standalone 5G, the full capabilities of the latest 3GPP release can be realised in a secure private operating environment with pervasive coverage across Millbrook Proving Ground. This brings Ultra Reliable Low latency Communications (URLLC), Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), and network slicing capabilities into a real-world test arena for the first time in the UK. Each adds significant value to the technology landscape. With URLLC, latency as low as 3ms can be experienced and mMTC brings the potential of connecting massively more devices per km2 than previously possible. Network slicing in essence gives a dedicated portion of the network to each network service, facilitating separate localisation, edge-computing and cloud access. This is analogous to having your own dedicated lane on a motorway that can expand and contract depending on what is driving through it!
Paul Senior, CEO, says: “Our partnership with Millbrook goes from strength to strength, and we are delighted to announce this major upgrade to the very latest state-of-the-art 3GPP 5G SA Open RAN technology from Airspan Networks. One of the key goals of the DCMS AutoAir 5G project was to ensure that the network we constructed was sustainable and provided a lasting legacy for Millbrook and the UK’s CAV eco-system. The deployment of a 3GPP 5G standalone infrastructure using the n77 band creates a unique test and development opportunity that can support both automotive and telecommunication eco-systems, within a bookable and accessible research facility.”
Connor McCormack, President of Millbrook says: “This upgrade is a huge step forward in capability, bringing the latest technology to our 5G testbed. It brings vast benefits to customers within our secure operating environment and future-proofs our testbed for the long-term. We are very proud to be part of the AutoAir consortium and look forward to the roll out of this cutting-edge technology.”
Eric Stonestrom, CEO of Airspan Networks says: “We are delighted to continue our long term relationship with the DCMS funded AutoAir project. The 5G upgrade using Airspan’s OpenRANGE end-to-end Sub-6 GHz solution is another proof point for the use of OpenRAN technology to leverage innovation in the UK”