Government appoints Atkins to study benefits of improved 5G connectivity on UK roads

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London-based design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins has been commissioned by the UK government to conduct a 5G feasibility study that will explore the benefits of increased investment in upgrading the connectivity on the country’s road network.

Acquired in July last year by the Canadian professional services and project management company SNC-Lavalin, Atkins has been appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the first step of the UK government’s £5m (US$6.5m) plan to improve future productivity through trialling 5G cellular connectivity on the road network. The feasibility study is due to be completed in December 2018, and will identify the short- and medium-term demand for connectivity, to ensure the road network is fit for the future.

Upgrading the digital infrastructure on the UK’s roads will offer transport users more reliable and consistent telecommunications connectivity. The increased capabilities offered by 5G technology will also help to future-proof the country’s infrastructure, as connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) become more commonplace on UK roads. Due to its high data transfer rates, 5G technology also has applications in Connected Intelligent Transportation Systems that involve vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity. Cellular 5G connectivity is also seen as an alternative to DSRC (dedicated short-range communications) technology in vehicle-to-everything (V2X) systems.

Atkins will work in partnership with Real Wireless, a world-leading independent wireless advisory firm, and transport intelligence company White Willow Consulting, to carry out the feasibility study, as well as collaborating closely with mobile network operators and Highways England, to determine the potential for investment into connectivity improvements. Stakeholders from a wider range of organizations will also be involved, to provide their perspective on future demand and alternative commercial models that can secure funding for the improvement of connectivity. The study will examine the potential of a 5G trial in the West Midlands, where highways infrastructure is already being equipped with V2X technologies for use in several government-backed CAV pilot projects.

“We’re carefully considering the best ways for both new and existing infrastructure to deliver 5G connectivity for a Britain that’s fit for the future,” noted Margot James, UK Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries. “I want this feasibility study, and any trials that may follow it, to help both government and industry solve some of the key challenges to deploying 5G infrastructure on our roads.”

Fraser Sommerville, project director in the transportation division of Atkins, commented, “The feasibility study will examine how to best future-proof the transportation network, as technology advances and the demand for connectivity continues to grow. By the end of the study, we hope to have a clearer view of transport users’ future needs, and new business models for attracting commercial investment into the upgrade of our road network’s digital infrastructure.”

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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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