The Irish city will explore the practicalities of 5G deployment and how Dense Air’s ‘neutral host’ infrastructure can be used by multiple operators
Dublin’s initial 5G testbed network in the city’s Docklands area is now live and will be open for companies to start testing in the next six to eight weeks.
The initiative is the result of an existing partnership between Dublin Council and its smart city initiative, Smart Dublin, telco Dense Air Ireland and Trinity College’s Connect communications research unit.
Compared to previous generation networks, 5G requires a much denser network of base stations. This hardware densification presents challenges for operators around the cost of deployment. Cities are also concerned about the visual and practical impact of increased telecoms infrastructure.
Under the agreement, Dense Air is building a trial small cell network which will be deployed on new and existing street furniture. The city will explore how Dense Air’s ‘neutral host’ infrastructure can be used by multiple operators.
Capitalising on 5G – at scale
Jamie Cudden, programme manager, Smart Dublin, said the purpose of the testbed is to gain insight into how 5G might be installed and deployed on a large scale.
“What we’re figuring out is, how can a city like Dublin enable faster roll-out and help the operators deploy this technology?” said Cudden. “They’re not going to be able to do this themselves because it’s expensive and they need access to power and height”.
The network will be available to both mobile network providers and innovative technology companies.
As well as enabling super-fast streaming on mobile networks, Dublin is also eyeing opportunities such as how 5G could be used to enable drones to help in emergency situations and to support the roll-out of connected cars.
Dense Air, a subsidiary of Airspan Networks, is based in London, UK, with offices in Ireland and Belgium. It uses “carrier of carriers” neutral host small cell technologies to deliver cost-effective densification to any existing LTE mobile carrier or service provider.
“What we’re figuring out is, how can a city like Dublin enable faster roll-out and help the operators deploy this technology?”
Last year, Vodafone announced plans to launch 5G services commercially by the end of 2019. The mobile network provider is also trialing the technology in Dublin’s docklands ahead of a formal roll-out as part of a project separate to Smart Dublin’s initiative. Similarly, Three Ireland and Eir have also announced plans to make the technology available to customers.
Cudden said the council has pushed ahead with the 5G launch pad to “make sure we don’t miss out on this opportunity”.
“There would be concerns about why we don’t have a national (5G) strategy, why there doesn’t seem to be national ambition in this space, and there seems to be a gap in terms of what’s happening across government.”