£9M project to enhance digital connectivity in high density areas

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The University of Liverpool will lead an innovative project that aims to tackle the challenge of poor digital connectivity in places where there is a high user demand such as busy railway stations, football matches or large concert venues.

The Liverpool City Region High Demand Density (Liverpool City Region HDD) project aims to demonstrate the benefits of Open RAN technology, an emerging telecommunications network architecture, to support large number of users accessing mobile and internet services in settings such as sports and music venues.

Announced today, (Thursday, 14 September), the University of Liverpool-led collaborative project, which involves the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and a consortium of partners, has been awarded £9 million funding from the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology.

Open RAN is gaining worldwide interest as a way of enhancing connectivity infrastructure by enabling low-cost, power efficient and unobtrusive small cells to meet the demands of high-density areas.

The Liverpool City Region HDD project will initially test the Open RAN technology in a simulated environment before trialling it at five test bed sites across the region, including a mixture of indoor and outdoor sites with a variety of uses, to see if the new HDD network can easily, safely and securely provide connectivity to high number of users in the same environment.

Professor Joe Spencer from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Electrical Engineering & Electronics is leading the Liverpool City Region HDD project.

He said: “This is an innovative and ambitious project which aims to showcase Open RAN technology can support agile and easily managed secure networks in and around Liverpool and demonstrate vastly enhanced connectivity in real-life high-density usage environments.

“Working with our project partners, we hope to demonstrate a new solution to address the issue of digital connectivity and exceed the performance of current and traditional technology solutions.

“This project will put Liverpool at the forefront of Open RAN technology development and demonstration and we hope the outputs from this project can be adopted in the UK and overseas.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Since I was elected Mayor, I’ve been on a mission to make our region the most digitally connected anywhere in the country. Building on our record of innovation, I’m really glad that we are playing a role in this pioneering project that will help to place us, once again, at the cutting edge of digital connectivity.

“Alongside the work I’m doing, such as LCR Connect, our half-publicly owned gigabit capable network, we’re creating what I hope will be a better-connected future where no one is left behind.”

The project builds on the previous track record of the Liverpool 5G consortium that includes the UK’s first 5G testbed project to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

The Liverpool City Region HDD consortium is led by the University of Liverpool in collaboration with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) and ITS Technology Group.

Partners include CGA Simulation, Liverpool John Moores University, the Hartree Centre, Qualcomm, Radisys, Telet, Weaver Labs, Asset Market, AttoCore and Atticus.

Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) Competition

The Liverpool HDD is supported with an investment of £9 million funding from the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology.

It is one of 19 projects funded through an £88 million investment in the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition which aims to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of technology.

Announcing the projects, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said:

“Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business.

“In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology that will underpin the network.

“The projects we’re backing today with £88 million in Government research and development investment will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come.”