BT & Nokia to launch UK's first live public 5G trial in Bristol

The UK is set to see its first live public 5G trial in March 2018 as part of a joint research project between BT, Nokia, and the University of Bristol.

The 5G proof of concept, which will be carried out in the city of Bristol, will test urban applications using a combination of pre-5G technology, LTE and wifi , the three partners explained during a press briefing in London.

Around 5,000 people are expected to attend the 5G demonstrations on 17 and 18 March, according to the University of Bristol’s director of Smart Internet Lab and chief scientific officer of Bristol Is Open Dimitra Simeonidou. The tests will allow the public to interact with a number of applications, including connected vehicles, live gaming and robotics. These will be connected through on-5G technologies, with 5G systems providing backhaul.

The University will also run comparative tests using larger 5G terminals which will manoeuvre round the testbed on golf carts, Simeonidou added.

Simeonidou said: “We are delighted to have been selected by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to host one of the 5GUK Test Networks.  

“Recently announced as the UK’s top ‘Smart City’, Bristol is well placed to conduct this pioneering work that will use innovative network and wireless technologies that will help improve services, businesses and infrastructure in our cities and region. We have long-standing relationships with both the BT Labs and Nokia’s Bell Labs Research, and with this new collaboration we are looking forward to demonstrating the very significant advances resulting from introducing 5G mobile technology.”

The initial test-bed deployment will focus on Millennium Square in central Bristol, with future plans to expand the trial across the city of Bristol, and also to the region such as Bath city centre. It will be supported by Bristol’s existing fibre infrastructure and use BT’s spectrum.

BT’s chief architect Neil McCrae said the demo will allow the UK telco, which owns mobile operator EE, to look at specific use cases for 5G whilst also supporting more machine-to-machine and internet of things connections.

McCrae added: “Connecting our customers and communities together is at the heart of BT’s purpose and we have demonstrated the power of 5G capabilities in driving our ambition in our labs. Now, we’re gaining a real-world understanding of how 5G can be used within dense urban environments. This is crucial to building meaningful use-cases for future macro-scale 5G networks. 

“5G is teaching us that collaboration is essential and we’re pleased to be working with experts from Nokia and The University of Bristol to lead research into technologies such as Massive MIMO and Network Convergence and enhance our understanding of the role 5G networks will play in building the connected cities of the future.”

Cormac Whelan, the CEO of Nokia UK&I, added: “The importance of applying 5G in the real world and showing what the combination of new and existing technologies can do for people, is not to be underestimated.  As with all new technology, we need to explore its capabilities and demonstrate how it could benefit enterprises and consumers.”

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