Loch Lomond to London and beyond: How Scottish 5G Innovation powered Coronation news broadcasting
● University of Strathclyde spin-out company, Neutral Wireless, worked with BBC R&D and other key partners to deliver the world’s largest temporary private 5G standalone network on The Mall in London, supporting international broadcasters
● Testing of the network took place in Loch Lomond, at The Scotland 5G Centre’s Rural Testbed, funded by Scottish Government
● Activities support Government aspiration for Scotland to be a leading 5G digital nation
5G technology tested in Loch Lomond at the Scotland 5G Centre testbed was deployed with BBC R&D to support the live new broadcasting of His Majesty King Charles III’s Coronation.
The University of Strathclyde software-defined radio (StrathSDR) team and spin-out company Neutral Wireless deployed the largest temporary private 5G standalone network of its type at the King’s Coronation. This network was used by 20 leading broadcasters, including BBC, CBS, Sky and CNN. The company set up eight 5G cells along The Mall, providing reliable and uncontested coverage from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch. This network delivered 1 Gbps of wireless connectivity, carrying high definition (HD) video from wireless cameras to production facilities around the world.
Early design and testing of this network took place at The Scotland 5G Centre’s Rural Testbed at Ross Priory in Loch Lomond, over 400 miles from London, in a collaboration involving key partners from the broadcast and media production industry. The Scotland 5G Centre, funded by the Scottish Government, is the national centre for accelerating the deployment and adoption of 5G connectivity in Scotland. Along with Loch Lomond, the centre has a number of Innovation Hubs and testbeds all over Scotland, supporting industry and public sectors with advanced connectivity solutions. The Scottish Government’s aspiration is for Scotland to be at the forefront of the digital revolution and, ultimately, to establish the whole country as a leading 5G digital nation.
Scottish Government Innovation Minister Richard Lochhead said:
“The Scottish Government’s investment via our Scotland 5G Centre has made it possible for the Neutral Wireless team to break a new world record by broadcasting such an historic occasion to millions of people around the world over a 5G network.
“This outstanding achievement demonstrates once again how 5G technology can help transform Scotland’s economy by driving innovation and enhancing our global competitiveness.”
To provide wireless HD cameras for live events, broadcasters may use point-to-point radio connections or use the public mobile networks with purpose-built multi-connection “cellular bonding” solutions. However, point-to-point links can be expensive, and using the public mobile networks can be challenging at large events, such as the Coronation or sports events, where large crowds can cause congestion and put a strain on network resources.
In addition, professional high-definition video requires high capacity networks with a high upload speed, whereas public networks are designed with a focus on serving data downloads to thousands of connected devices. The high quality private 5G network solved these issues, allowing camera operators to get close to the action and engage with the public without being inhibited by wires, whilst still streaming high-definition live footage. The network was also used to provide connectivity for live BBC radio contributions. 5G technology was previously used on a smaller scale to connect cameras for international news broadcast coverage of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s final departure from Scotland, as part of the same know-how engineered and tested in Scotland on the Scotland 5G Centre rural testbed project
Ian Sharp, Head of Business Development at the Scotland 5G Centre, said:
“The Coronation filming shows the enormous scope of 5G technology, being trusted to facilitate the worldwide broadcast of a historical moment. While all eyes were on London, behind the scenes, Scottish innovation and testing in the S5GC rural testbed at Loch Lomond helped the broadcast of this important day to go smoothly. This achievement showcases the transformative potential of 5G, as well as the need for testbed facilities and innovation hubs to support industry with real world applications.”
Prof. Bob Stewart, University of Strathclyde, added:
“This was an incredible 5G network to design, build and operate. Using shared spectrum, and our own 5G Network in a Box (NIB) standalone (SA) radio technology, we had control of every aspect of the network, from basestation to user devices, all controlled from our own network operations. Very exciting times for private 5G, which can be used to complement the public networks rather than compete with them. We have some exciting networks coming in 2024!”
Key partners for the private 5G network used at the Coronation include BBC R&D, StrathSDR, Sony, LiveU and Haivision.