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Partnership Between Dense Air and Millbrook on the Issue of Sustainability of the 5G AutoAir Network

Major upgrades planned for Dense Air hyperdense network at Millbrook

Dense Air, the neutral host operator of the  connected 5G test bench , located in Millbrook , originally created by the AutoAir 5G test bench and test bench project at DCMS, announced a major upgrade to the hyperdense and high performance 4G and 5G network. The network will be one of the first and largest neutral 5G standalone host network in Europe . Autonomous and Connected Vehicle (VAC) developers will have access to the latest technologies, including low latency connectivity, network slicing and the ability to test vehicles on more advanced networks that are available in major export markets. 

These improved network technologies will be deployed at the independent 700-acre test center in Millbrook , Bedfordshire, in early 2021. In addition to its extensive test tracks  and laboratories, Millbrook is home to the test bed UK Government Controlled Urban Urban for Autonomous and Connected Vehicles, part of CAM Testbed UK.

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The AutoAir network is migrated to commercial grade 3GPP 5G SA (standalone) Open RAN, unbundled RAN and cloud native 5GC technologies, making extensive use of the Airspan Networks product line. This deployment supports the UK government’s Supply Chain Diversity initiative and complies with new O-RAN standards which aim to democratize the supply of radio access units within an open source platform .

The network will operate on frequencies of 4G band 40 (2.3 GHz), 4G band 3 (1.8 GHz) and 5G band n77 (3.8 and 4.2 GHz) under licenses from shared access pioneers. This will allow private networks to work with their own allocation of radio spectrum for testing and development, while also supporting public access for mobile network operators. Band n77 is the same band that is already in commercial operation in Japan and is currently allocated to the United States by the Federal Communications Commission. This means that users will be able to test VACs in the UK using the latest network frequencies, before exporting vehicles to Japan and the US.

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With standalone 5G, the full capabilities of the latest 3GPP version can be achieved in a secure private operating environment with widespread coverage throughout the   Millbrook Proving Ground . For the first time in the UK, Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) technology, Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) paradigm and network slicing capabilities are integrated into a real-world test field. Each element adds significant value to the technological landscape. With URLLC, latency as low as 3ms can be experienced and the mMTC paradigm allows massively more devices to be connected per km 2than before. Network slicing allows a dedicated portion of the network to be assigned to each network service, facilitating separate location, edge computing, and cloud access. It’s like having your own reserved lane on a freeway, which can expand and contract depending on the vehicles that use it.

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Paul Senior , CEO, says, “Our partnership with Millbrook continues to grow stronger, and we are delighted to announce this important upgrade to the latest 3GPP 5G SA Open RAN technology from Airspan Networks. One of the main goals of the DCMS AutoAir 5G project was to ensure that the network we built was sustainable and left a lasting legacy for Millbrook and the UK VAC ecosystem. Deploying a stand-alone 3GPP 5G infrastructure using the n77 band creates a unique testing and development opportunity that can support both automotive and telecommunications ecosystems in a bookable and accessible research facility. “

Connor McCormack , President of Millbrook , said: “This upgrade, which brings the latest technology to our 5G test bed, is a giant leap in capacity. It allows customers to enjoy vast benefits in our secure operating environment and sustains our test bed over the long term. We are very proud to be part of the AutoAir consortium and look forward to the deployment of this cutting edge technology. “

Eric Stonestrom , CEO of Airspan Networks, said: “We are delighted to continue our long term relationship with the DCMS funded AutoAir project. Another argument for using OpenRAN technology to facilitate innovation in the UK is the 5G upgrade using Airspan’s Sub-6 GHz end-to-end OpenRANGE solution.

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