The UK government has selected Ordnance Survey (OS) to develop a planning and mapping tool that it hopes will be instrumental for the national rollout of 5G technology.
OS announced it is set to lead a consortium that includes the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey and the Met Office. They will be building a ‘digital twin’ of the real world, which will then be used to determine the prime locations for the radio antennae necessary to enable a 5G network.
The planning and mapping tool will be trialled first in Bournemouth. OS said if it is successful, the tool has the potential to be scaled up to cover the rest of the UK. It could also be shared with other countries developing their own 5G networks.
OS commercial director, Andrew Loveless, says: “The purpose is to deploy 5G quickly and efficiently. Linking OS data to spectrum information and meteorological data will deliver faster speeds and better coverage to connected devices, all the while helping keep rollout costs to a minimum.”
According to OS, a significant issue with the rollout of a 5G network is that details such as different construction materials can markedly reduce the capability for radio signals to travel. At very high frequencies, even raindrops and tree leaves can interfere with radio signals. It means that radio antennae and network equipment will need to be deployed where the impact of the built and natural environment has a minimal effect.
Discovering where to best place the large amount of equipment required for a national 5G network would be a very time consuming and costly exercise of trial and error, but OS said it will create a data visualisation tool that will allow the vast majority of the work to be done from an office.
OS said that network planners can open the accurate digital environment and simply place an access point, allowing them to immediately see what inhibits the technology from being able to communicate. This will enable planners to construct a virtual network in minutes.
The model’s intelligence will include weather conditions, tree foliage, the lifecycles of vegetation and details of future building projects. This is intended to give planners the opportunity to test broadcast range and reliability throughout the seasons and over the coming years.