Autonomous vehicle testing in the UK to be powered by O2’s 5G network
O2 are set to support the testing of connected and autonomous vehicles with 5G network following recent claims from UK ministers that driverless cars could be in full use on Britain’s roads by 2021.
O2 has announced that it will be the public and private network provider of 5G connectivity for the testing and development of CAV technology at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.
O2 will enable 5G connectivity at Millbrook testing facilities from June 2019, using its 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum in advance of the first phase of its 5G rollout in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London later in 2019.
The on-site network consists of 59 sites and 89 small cells and is operated by British wireless solution provider Dense Air. Under a 12-month agreement with the AutoAir project, O2 will integrate the sites and small cells into its public infrastructure.
Expanding expertise within the AutoAir 5G project
The AutoAir 5G project is made up of a number of different partners from across the digital communications and automotive sectors. It has received a further £1.8 million in funding from DCMS, taking the total project investment from the government to nearly £6 million. Matched industry funding totals more than £4.5 million.
The group looks to accelerate the adoption of connected and self-driving technology in the UK through trials supported by members including Dense Air, Airspan Networks, Millbrook, Blu Wireless, Real Wireless, the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre and the R&D arm of motorsport racing team McLaren. The consortium’s ranks were further boosted by engineering firm Atkins, who have signed an agreement to lend their design and engineering expertise to the project, alongside O2.
5G’s role in supporting CAV and intelligent transport systems
The low-latency and high capacity of 5G allows for vehicles to transmit large amounts of data, including 4K video, to intelligent cloud-based transport systems, which are expected to improve road safety and help traffic authorities to monitor and manage traffic flow.
Earlier in 2019, the AutoAir 5G Testbed and Trials consortium was able to prove this capability during tests at Millbrook that saw a McLaren sports car receive and send data at 1Gbit/s whilst driving round the site at 160mph.
Commenting on the launch of O2’s 5G network at Millbrook, Brendan O’Reilly, O2’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “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. 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 announcement follows recent claims by UK ministers that driverless cars could be in full use on Britain’s roads by 2021, as the government presses forward with advanced trials for automated and connected vehicles.
“This project will transform the way we design, maintain and operate on our future networks,” said Lizi Stewart, Managing Director, Transportation UK, Atkins. “Developing the first 5G neutral network in the UK will allow us to continue our drive for innovation and industry-changing initiatives for the transportation sector.”
“The AutoAir consortium is pleased to welcome O2 and Atkins to the 2nd phase of the project”, said Paul Senior, CEO of Dense Air and Chief Strategy Officer of Airspan Networks. “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.
“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.”