Bristol shows off world’s first 5G urban network

Bristol shows off world’s first 5G urban network

Researchers at the University of Bristol have demonstrated what they claim is the world’s first end-to-end 5G urban network.

The university’s Smart Internet Lab has used technology from American semiconductor firm Xilinx to develop a “flexible and programmable 5G testbed”.

It consists of 5G NR radio heads that are connected to a virtualised baseband pool. The network also uses dynamic low-latency and elastic-bandwidth technologies.

Eventually, the technology could be used in smart city, augmented reality, autonomous transport, and smart tourism systems. The project is backed by the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

A connected revolution

While a plethora of 5G projects is taking place across of the world, this is believed to be one of the first experiments to consider urban environments.

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The researchers said they’re focusing on connecting industries and enabling new services in preparation for the “demands of the information society of 2020”.

They added that, compared to previous wireless technologies, 5G places a bigger emphasis on machines by “adding reliable and resilient control and monitoring to the 4G theme of communication and information sharing”.

However, 5G networks may create unique security challenges, as this Internet of Business report reveals:

Read more: How to secure 5G to prevent IoT disasters: expert panel

Varied use cases

The Bristol project is focusing on the ways that 5G can be used to enhance areas such as production, transport, retail, and consumer goods. The researchers want to transform the ways “we live, work, commute, entertain, and even relax”.

Dimitra Simeonidou, director of the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol, said his research team wanted to create a network that can support a range of industry verticals. 

“Central to our architecture has been flexibility and programmability of the network edge, including traffic aggregation and computing, as well as disaggregation of hardware-hosted network functions across the infrastructure,” he said.

“We used Xilinx’s platform to support this architecture. Our 5G open hardware solutions are fully transferable, and there are already plans for deployments in other cities across the UK and Europe.”

A lucrative partnership

The 5G network is based on Xilinx’s programmable FPGA and SoC technologies. Farhad Shafai, vice president of the firm’s communications business, said the chips play a crucial role in “implementing 5G proofs of concept, test beds, and early commercialisation trials”.

He said: “Xilinx has a long history of driving innovations, industry standards, proofs of concept, testbeds, and successful commercialisation of the technology, compliant to constantly evolving standards to meet perpetual growth in demand for connectivity and bandwidth.

“The 5G megatrend is a unique opportunity to leverage years of multi-market leadership and technology investments at Xilinx to enable industry to meet the demands of the connected information society of 2020.”

Internet of Business says

2018 has been the year of 5G, and the year of the connected car, with new projects, tests, and programmes being carried out worldwide.

The potential of 5G is enormous, alongside IoT programmes. However, it is clear from our in-depth report on 5G security, which hears from a panel of industry experts, that securing 5G networks may be a trickier challenge than many organisations realise – especially in the wake of multiple reports that IoT security is itself being overlooked by both vendors and users.

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