Transport connectivity is one of the biggest challenges in 5G communications. It is far from straightforward to deliver 5G connectivity to vehicles which can travel at up to 160mph.
In the rail sector, track-to-train communications can be severely affected by intermittent connectivity issues. There are multiple obstacles that interfere with smooth connectivity such as tunnels, deep cuttings, bridges and reflective surfaces from trackside furniture such as metal stanchions for overhead power lines. Current track to train systems use 4G mobile signals to connect each train to the Internet. However, due to the combination of limited capacity (10-50 Mbps/train) and poor coverage in rail operating conditions the net effect is to negatively influence the customer experience, with two thirds of UK rail passengers unable to connect to Wi-Fi.
Road users are equally grappling with safety concerns which could be eliminated if connected and autonomous vehicle technologies were implemented such as hazard/accident anticipation 5G sensors. Connected vehicles require a dedicated wireless and roadside network that is flexible enough to deal with a changing environment. 5G mmWave technology is uniquely equipped to meet this demand.
Could mmWave Networking provide the solution?
Blu Wireless is currently the only mmWave solution provider using the 57-71 GHz band for high-speed transport – this high-frequency band is able to process extremely high data rates equivalent to 5G fibre connections. Connectivity can be up to 100 times faster than 4G.
Deployed without disruption
5G mmWave and 5G fibre may be able to operate at the same ultra-high speeds, but mmWave has one crucial advantage – it is far simpler to deploy. Instead of time-consuming planning and deployment associated with digging up roads or tracks to lay fibre, mmWave units can be attached to nearby poles. Implementation is therefore far less costly and much more rapid to install than fibre, saving rail operators and local authorities time and money.
Tailored for Transport
Aside from the sheer speed of travel, challenges can include connections becoming blocked when a train passes through a tunnel. With mmWave, sophisticated interference mitigation techniques help maintain a consistent user experience. If a signal from one pole is broken, another pole’s mmWave unit will take over in a matter of milliseconds, ensuring that connectivity remains seamless.
Rather than depending on one large tower, mmWave networking uses a dedicated track or roadside network of small cells, meaning vehicles or trains are never far from at least one mmWave access point. This ensures that handover between poles is consistently reliable.
What will this mean for commuters?
5G signifies huge progress for the commuter experience. Rail passengers will go from dealing with internet connection dropping at unpredictable moments to flawless connectivity even for data-intensive use cases. Everything from 3D gaming to HD video streaming will be possible. Professionals will confidently schedule in video conferences for their commute and tourists will decide what to stream mid-journey rather than downloading their favourite series or film before they set off.
For cars, 5G connectivity enables the driver to benefit from real-time route information and even remote maintenance in future. Together, autonomous vehicle technology and 5G mmWave connectivity will support drivers effortlessly with forward planning. Autonomous vehicle technology will leverage 5G and roadside IoT sensors to “see” around corners, automatically stopping the car before accidents obstruct its path.
Implementing mmWave at the AutoAir 5G Testbed
At the AutoAir 5G Testbed for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, a 5G project funded by the UK Government, Blu Wireless built a hyper-dense small cell network, with 22 nodes installed on 11 poles spaced 300m around a 2 mile high-speed test track. This mmWave V2X network was completed in January 2019 and the technology was then successfully proven in a live demonstration in February, featuring buses, cars, an ambulance and McLaren sports cars travelling at speeds of up to 160mph. Incredibly high data rates of over 1.5Gbit/s were achieved. We also demonstrated live 4K video streams between vehicles and between vehicle and trackside as well as real-time image processing of sensor data – showing the potential impact of 5G mmWave on future journeys.
The validation of our mmWave V2X network at AutoAir was a significant landmark for global transport connectivity. If such 5G mmWave networks were to be rolled out trackside worldwide, this would be a great boost for the economy, for the public transport sector and for the planet, with more people keen to travel by rail. And those who do travel by car will have innovative safeguards to protect them from harm, as well as enhanced entertainment for passengers, thanks to autonomous vehicle technology and 5G mmWave connectivity.
At Blu Wireless, we are already taking another step towards this future. In February 2019, we announced our partnership with FirstGroup to deliver 5G connectivity to rail passengers and continue to expand our delivery of 5G transport networks worldwide.
To find out more about how we could help you implement your own High-Speed Transport 5G mmWave networking solution, get in touch.