Vodafone UK and Nokia have began deploying a 4G/5G mobile private network in coastal town Plymouth to as a testbed for trials at sea, which, according to them, is a first in the sector worldwide.
The 5G testbed is being deployed at Smart Sound Plymouth, a 1,000 square kilometre water space used for the testing and development of new products and services for the marine sector. The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) provided around £1.8 million in funding for the project.
Dubbed Smart Sound Connect, the network provides connectivity from the quayside to more than 20 miles offshore, supported by five mobile sites and a data mesh network from Steatite. Plymouth Marine Laboratory is responsible for operating the network, while the first companies to participate in trials include Lloyds Register, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Serco, and The Bounty Project.
Vodafone UK business director Nick Gliddon said the 5G private network will allow companies to test and develop offshore ideas and use cases “in a way that was not previously possible”.
Some of the initial use cases include a digital twin environment which will form the basis for a certification and classification programme for autonomous marine vehicles.
The Marine Assured Autonomy Testbed (MAAT), is led by Lloyds Register and NPL.
Karl Tucker, chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, explained Smart Sound Connect “forms a key part of the Ocean Futures programme”, a government, industry and academic research project which launched in 2021.