Private 5G networks in ports

This article first appeared in the Maritime Journal. Read it here.

Automated ports generate a considerable amount of data and require a reliable and safe telecommunications network. The Port of Felixstowe 5G create project, for instance, uses more than 100 cranes to transport containers, some of which can be operated remotely to ensure that they remain under human control while the operators stay in a safe environment.

Each connected crane has over 20 high-definition cameras providing data to the control centre and requires low latency, lag-free connection to manoeuvre containers safely. A significant amount of data is also collected and transferred as ports communicate with vessels, requiring robust connectivity and high bandwidth.

Data transfer on this scale is challenging using dedicated 5G networks as todays’ networks typically only use a small slice of the spectrum, thus quickly hitting the limit and becoming overloaded.

The challenge of scaling a network

Many ports have a private 5G network in place but operate on a restricted licence that only uses a slice of spectrum. This might be adequate for simple use cases — a location sensor for instance — but when data volumes generated increase as a result of devices such as high-definition cameras, ports are faced with a challenge of scaling their network.

They will discover pinch points where they need additional bandwidth and capacity, but digging up a port to lay fibre is expensive and disruptive to operations. To tackle these challenges and support more complex use cases utilising high data volumes, a blend of different networks is the recommended approach.

mmWave will revolutionise the port and logistics industry

To complement networks already in place, port authorities can implement mmWave to get more flexibility, capacity, and to scale their connectivity. The technology is easy to deploy and can work alongside networks already in place.

For example, ports can take advantage of the unlicensed spectrum for backhaul requirements. There is no cost for using the spectrum, and technologically mmWave will provide higher bandwidth and lower latency for backhaul to transfer data across the site to the control centre in a cost-effective and efficient way.

For port operations, this means improved efficiency, tracking and security across the site and allows operations teams to focus on the quality of service.

If you’d like to discuss your network challenges for ports or large area private networks, get in touch with us today.

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