Ordnance Survey to develop ‘digital twin’ of UK to map national rollout of 5G

Written by Rebecca Hill on 22 November 2016 in News

The UK Government has commissioned the Ordnance Survey to create a smart map that will determine the best locations for 5G radio antennae

Bournemouth map - Image credit: OS (old OS map) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The UK Government has commissioned the Ordnance Survey (OS) to create a smart map that will determine the best locations for the radio antennae needed to establish a 5G network in the UK.

The planning and mapping tool will be used to create what the OS described as a “digital twin” of the real world that will help overcome the barriers to rolling out a 5G network, which is necessary to allow widespread use of the internet of things and driverless vehicles.

Such internet-connected devices require a much higher bandwidth, with more data being transferred than is possible on current mobile frequencies – something that can be done with 5G networks.


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However, construction materials, tree foliage and weather conditions – even something as seemingly small as raindrops – can interfere with high frequency radio signals, meaning that the location of 5G radio antennae is crucial.

It is this issue that the OS project, which also involves the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre and the Met Office, aims to address.

“Discovering where to best place the large amount of equipment required for a national 5G network would be a very time consuming and costly exercise of trial and error, but with the data visualisation tool OS will create, the vast majority of the work could be done from a desk,” the OS said in a statement.

Planners will use the digital map – which will also incorporate information on weather conditions, vegetation life cycles and future building projects – to test whether a radio antennae is able to communicate and what is inhibiting it.

They can use this to create a virtual network quickly and understand the broadcast range and reliability at different points of the year, as well as in the near future.

“Linking OS data to spectrum information and meteorological data will deliver faster speeds and better coverage to connected devices, all the while helping keep rollout costs to a minimum,” said OS commercial director, Andrew Loveless. “It is a smart map for a smart future.”

The tool will be trialled in Bournemouth, with surveying already underway in the town, which was recently named digital council of the year and is aiming to become one of the first places in the UK to have 5G coverage.

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