Noting that Covid has stalled many industry partners’ outputs apart from those in 5G health, millimetre wave wireless technology provider Blue Wireless has revealed its part in supporting social care and education leader Liverpool 5G Create in creating intellectual property (IP).
Liverpool 5G Create is led by the University of Liverpool with partners Liverpool City Council, Blu Wireless Technology, Broadway Partners, Liverpool John Moores University, CGA Simulation, Docobo, NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group and Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust. The project is managed and supported by the eHealth Cluster with further services supplied by Telet Research (NI), AIMES Management Services and Real Wireless.
Part of DCMS-funded 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care Testbed began operation in April 2018, and the Liverpool 5G Create: Connecting Health and Social Care project, announced in August 2020, set out to develop a private, independent 5G network for health and social care services in the Kensington area of the city.
The network is designed to reduce digital poverty for vulnerable people in need, providing safe, free and accessible connectivity to services including health, social care and education. The project looked to increase the area covered, upgrade existing mmWave nodes, integrate small cell technology and trial a range of use cases in health and social care.
Blu Wireless developed unique mmWave technology for the Liverpool 5G project, to provide coverage in densely populated city streets. Liverpool 5G’s “network-of-networks” is itself a unique technology. A hybrid consolidation, it uses mmWave back-haul, LoRaWan, and, more recently, Telet Research’s 5G small cell network and roaming technologies. Designed using a bespoke simulation-based network planning tool and supporting multiple, innovative health applications, the project has already generated significant new IP.
Liverpool 5G’s network employs 5G small cells, deployed on a mesh network that relies on the proximity of “line of sight” to work efficiently. This is said to be a plus for supporting the kind of public sector technologies the project delivers, which need a power source that delivers the same power as a handset to work efficiently. A traditional 5G base station was deemed as not fit for purpose to deliver the 5G to the project’s technologies in people’s homes, especially in a dense, urban environment like Kensington. This was another reason for developing a new business model for an agile network that doesn’t require a base station.
The 5G network in Liverpool is said to be unique, as a hybrid 5G small cell public sector network of this scale has not been attempted before. 5G-supported remote GP consultations, online wound management, a haptic (remote hug) shirt, care homes sensors, an anti-anxiety app for children under eight, and support for children learning at home during the Covid 19 pandemic are among the technologies being trialled by the community. The 5G connection to use these technologies is provided free to the community for the course of the project.
Neill Young, technical marketing manager and smart city lead at Blu Wireless, described the Liverpool project as a great proving ground for how the mmWave networking equipment performs in a dense, urban environment.
“We used the Liverpool deployment as a chance to refine and advance the development of our mmWave networking products,” he said. “New features, introduced as part of the Liverpool 5G project, that are finding their way into other projects, include new generations of hardware, extended range through multi-hops and the integration with 5G small cells.”
Upgrading and expanding Liverpool’s independent, private 5G network continues apace. In 2021, the project will also focus on education by supplying 5G support to local schools, home schoolers and Kensington Community Centre. Blu Wireless said it will continue to upgrade the mmWave network in Liverpool deployed during the original DCMS-funded 2018 Testbed and Trials Programme with its latest generation of wireless networking modules, while Telet Research adds its small cell network for 5G user and device access.
The upgrade, which Blu Wireless has described as generational, is designed to allow for more flexible deployments by including two modems and antenna systems per node, as well as improved mounting and environmental protection. The network range will be extended by transferring data across multi-hops, so that hard-to-reach areas can have multi-gigabit access and backhaul network speeds without needing line-of-sight across the network. This will extend to fully dynamic mesh capabilities, meaning that traffic paths can be rerouted if a signal is blocked by, for example, a truck parking in front of a node.
What is said to be one of the project’s most significant developments will be the integration and deployment of 5G small cells, used by operators to create 5G wireless networks for consumers.
“This integration is vital as mmWave technology can support the creation of wireless mesh networks in indoor and outdoor areas, which can be implemented to address the connectivity needs of cities and communities,” said Young.
“Connecting sub 6-GHz 5G networks via mmWave access and backhaul opens up a whole range of new opportunities in dense, urban areas and enterprise deployments, including delivering 5G-enabled critical public services and accelerating the roll-out of IoT applications essential for smart cities.”
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