Dublin's docklands could be turned into a playground for testing 5G technology

The city council hopes a ‘small cells’ network will be available for use by native and international firms.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

DUBLIN COUNCIL’S ‘SMART cities’ initiative is piloting a 5G launch pad in the city’s docklands in the hope that the network will be used as a test bed for the budding technology.

The initiative falls under an existing partnership between the local authority, telco Dense Air Ireland and Trinity College’s Connect communications research unit.

Under the agreement, Dense Air will build a trial network for the council consisting of ‘small cells’ that will be deployed on new and existing street furniture. 

Compared with previous network generations, 5G is tipped to provide much faster and more reliable online connectivity.

Jamie Cudden, programme manager at the council’s Smart Dublin initiative, said the city authority plans to make the docklands network available for use by native and international businesses.

The city plans make the network available to both mobile network providers and the likes of smart technology startups.

Cudden said the purpose of the test bed is to help provide an understanding of how 5G might be installed and deployed on a larger scale.

“What we’re figuring out is, how can a city like Dublin enable faster rollout and help the operators deploy this (technology)?” he said.

“They’re not going to be able to do this themselves because it’s expensive and they need access to power and height.

“The city is a good size to test things and if companies can work with us, we can trial things here that can help us solve different challenges.”

Besides enabling super-fast streaming on mobile networks, Cudden suggested 5G could be used to enhance the use of drones in emergency situations and improve how connected cars function in the city.

5G technology
Source: DPA/PA Images

Uses

Unlike 4G, the small cells used for 5G need a much denser network of coverage and are often located on traffic lights, lamp posts and buildings.

For that reason, Dublin City Council is exploring the option of creating a “neutral hosted infrastructure” that could be used by multiple operators.

“If all the operators are looking to put stuff on poles, it could be quite messy, and it’s difficult to get access to power and fibre,” Cudden said.

Last year, Vodafone announced plans to launch 5G services commercially by the end of 2019. The mobile network provider is also trialling the technology in Dublin’s docklands ahead of a formal rollout 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.”

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