Scotland faces unique challenges in providing ubiquitous connectivity, particularly in areas where return on investment is not clearly defined and infrastructure deployment decisions have traditionally proven difficult to justify. However, 5G presents an opportunity to do things differently and to adopt new ideas and new ways of deployment and operation, making it more than simply an extension of previous mobile technologies. By looking at new operational models, such as neutral hosting and private networks, there is an opportunity to make connectivity more commercially viable and sustainable.
With significant amounts of the UK’s allocated spectrum for mobile and wireless networks available under shared access mechanisms (local, shared and TVWS licensing), there is significant and growing potential for private networks to enable improved connectivity. Spectrum sharing is therefore at the cusp of real growth enabled by new, versatile software defined radio technology.
On the 28th of October, StrathSDR and the Scotland 5G Centre (S5GC) hosted a day of presentations and live outdoor demonstrations featuring shared spectrum and SDR-based private network solutions as part of the project with S5GC developing testbed facilities at the University of Strathclyde Ross Priory estate on Loch Lomond.
These sessions covered a range of topics across the developing 5G landscape. The StrathSDR team, and various partners, provided details on the various research projects and private network demonstrator deployments.
The agenda included presentations on:
- Scotland 5G Centre Rural Testbed – Creation of a rural ‘field lab’ to allow for demonstration, test, and evaluation of new 5G technologies.
- 5G New Thinking – An 18 partner project, and evolution of the 5G RuralFirst project, exploring the viability of community-led deployments of mobile networks.
- 5G Remote Production – An exploration of the role of private networks for live Sports broadcasting and event coverage.
- 5G RailNext – A demonstrator of interactive media delivery over private 5G networks in the Glasgow Underground.
- Private Networks for Energy – Looking at the role of NB-IoT in developing the green economy by enabling energy management systems.
- Private Networks for Manufacturing – Enabling “Industry 4.0” private networks in collaboration with the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland.
- International shared and private spectrum networks partnerships – Discussion from the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, as well as an overview of shared spectrum activities in Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria.
Professor Bob Stewart opened the proceedings, welcoming guests on the live broadcast and also in-person to the Ross Priory building. As the head of the StrathSDR team, Professor Stewart also delivered an introduction to the research group and the history of engagement in dynamic and shared spectrum projects.
The first presentation of the day came from CEO of the Scotland 5G Centre, Paul Coffey, who provided an overview of the centre’s activities, the future role of 5G in society, and the new research hubs being established across Scotland.
With Shared Spectrum as one of the main themes for the event, we were pleased to welcome Martin Fenton, Director of Spectrum Policy at Ofcom, to discuss the regulator perspective of the shared and local access licencing scheme. These shared spectrum policies are critical in enabling the various projects and research activities taking place across Scotland.
We were then joined remotely by Stephen Speirs from Cisco to discuss their ongoing collaboration projects with StrathSDR. This included 5G New Thinking, 5G RailNext, and also a discussion of how the new private Cisco Cloud Core installation on the University’s city centre campus will underpin 5G research across Scotland.
This was followed by a joint presentation from Dr David Crawford of StrathSDR, in-person at Ross Priory, and Greg Whitton from Cloudnet, remotely from Orkney and the main 5G New Thinking testbed. Deployment of rural networks is never a straightforward process, and this presentation highlights both the technical and logistical challenges of working in such a remote location.
Joining us from Virginia in the United States, Dr James (Jody) Neel, Senior Technologist at Federated Wireless, was next to discuss their engagement with the shared and local access licence program as part of the 5G New Thinking consortium. With significant experience in shared spectrum, through their involvement in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the US, Federated Wireless has a unique perspective on the benefits and challenges of practical, private network, shared spectrum deployment. Their presentation previewed a tool being developed under the 5GNT program to simplify the SAL application process and how this could facilitate the evolution to full DSA in the Shared Access Licence bands.