AutoAir project begins deployment of the UK’s first transportation 5G network

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Led by Airspan Networks, the UK’s AutoAir project partners have started deploying an advanced 5G network at the Millbrook Proving Ground, preparing it for the future testing and validation of cellular-based connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies.

Part-funded by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the AutoAir project team will deliver pervasive 4G and 5G connectivity at the Millbrook Proving Ground over the coming months though a dense network of base stations around the research facility’s test tracks.

This will provide Gbps real-time connectivity, and enable accurate location and connectivity trials on-site for the first time. Millbrook provides a safe and secure environment for controlled to semi-controlled testing of ADAS and autonomous mobility experiments, and a natural, real-world, extension to its customers’ software engineering processes. A digital model of its proving ground is also being made available to vehicle manufacturers and CAV developers to take full advantage of its facilities.

The AutoAir project consortium is developing a neutral host-based small cell system for transportation networks in the UK, which will accelerate the development and deployment of two key technologies; 5G communications and CAVs. The AutoAir project brings together a large number of the industry’s leading 5G players and the pioneering research at Surrey University’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC).

Led by Airspan, the project consortium includes: 5GIC at Surrey University, Dense Air, McLaren Applied Technologies, Blu Wireless Technology, Quortus, Millbrook, Real Wireless, ARM, Cobham Wireless, and Celestia Technologies.

The project aims to deliver 5G small cells operating in both licensed Sub 6GHz and mmWave bands on a shared ‘neutral host’ platform that allows multiple public and private 5G operators to simultaneously use the same infrastructure using network slicing.

“The design phase of the AutoAir project has been completed and we now turn our attention to physical deployment and implementation of testbeds at Millbrook and the University of Surrey,” explained Paul Senior, chief strategy officer at Airspan Networks and CEO of Dense Air. “Breaking ground at Millbrook was very exciting, and we can’t wait to test the Hyper-Dense 5G network we are building, with connected and autonomous vehicles.”

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Margot James, UK Minister for Digital & Creative Industries, commented, “I am thrilled to see such good progress being made on the AutoAir 5G testbed. This fantastic project highlights the opportunities that 5G connectivity on our roads offers, including the potential to support connected and autonomous vehicles.”

Peter Stoker, chief engineer for CAVs at Millbrook, said, “The start of this network deployment sends a fantastic message to developers and innovators in the transport and automotive industries. The technology that will enable them to accelerate their programs is being made available, now.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of these developments; 5G, together with our advanced capabilities as part of the CAV testbed, will make a real difference in expediting thorough and, above all, safe testing and validation.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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