UK leads pioneering 5G infrastructure research

UK leads pioneering 5G infrastructure research
5G network coverage is set to revolutionise all areas of our lives, from the economy to healthcare and tourism. It is an essential building block for the mass usage of augmented and virtual reality applications, the Internet of Things and connected vehicles.

But until now it has not been possible to accurately map the national requirements and costs of this essential infrastructure.
Dr Edward Oughton, from the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC) at the University of Oxford, is leading a team developing the software platform required to revolutionise 5G investment decision-making. 

He says, “To ensure we can provide the mobile capacity and coverage we require, we need 5G technologies to help cope with the huge increase in demand for wireless data transfer. However, currently there is limited knowledge and understanding of the financial impacts of the roll-out of different 5G infrastructure strategies. 

“Our models and research allow multinational organisations, governments and other digital ecosystem stakeholders to understand the investment costs involved in providing different levels of capacity and coverage.”

The new software platform ITRC is piloting informs investment decision-making for different 5G infrastructure strategies. The organisation has also carried out a pilot investment analysis into the capacity and coverage required to roll-out 5G in the Netherlands. 

Pioneering 5G infrastructure model for UK and world
To develop the model, the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium and the Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure (DAFNI) paired up to create an open-source software tool for both mobile and fixed networks. It enables users to assess the required costs for rolling out different levels of 5G coverage and can be applied in the UK and overseas. 
The model uses data from a range of sources, including population forecasts, system capacities, coverage and data demands, and budget constraints, to examine what different strategies for implementation could look like. The outcomes can be used to inform government decision-making, as well as for businesses planning for the future. 
“Currently it’s very difficult to quantify the performance of different digital infrastructure strategies for either 5G or rolling out fibre-to-the-premises,” says lead researcher Dr Oughton. 
“The platform we are testing allows different strategies to be compared in terms of capacity, coverage and cost, allowing industry and government to take better-informed decisions. Uniquely, this model has a graphical user interface which means it can be used by non-technical users, unlike the limited number of engineering models that exist.”
Mapping 5G in the Netherlands 
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy commissioned Dr Oughton from ITRC and a team of researchers from other universities and consultancies to analyse the capacity, coverage and cost of 5G infrastructure strategies for the Netherlands.

Dr Oughton explains, “Countries cannot afford to undertake poor decision-making when it comes to digital infrastructure as billions of dollars are being invested globally every year.” 

The report for the Netherlands identifies investment costs per user for various 5G infrastructure technologies, as well as which will offer the best capacity per user. 

It provides the Ministry with data to allow them to identify which 5G network expansion strategy will be the most cost effective, and the costs of providing coverage to different proportions of the population. 

Assessing the capacity, coverage and cost of 5G infrastructure strategies: Analysis of the Netherlands”.

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