Pioneering trials of 5G technology for outdoor TV broadcasts supported by the University of Strathclyde have been carried out at a series of global events.

Potentially game-changing technology that reduces the reliance on fixed wire connections between camera crews and outside broadcast vehicles could see a new use case for 5G.

The technology has already been deployed to cover the Royal funeral procession in Edinburgh, a rhino sanctuary in Kenya, elections in Denmark and Maori martial arts in New Zealand.

The proof of concept trials aimed to overcome technical and logistical challenges faced by broadcasters, which relies on large, heavy equipment and lengthy cabling.

The technology was designed by the University of Strathclyde’s software defined radio team, StrathSDR, and engineered by spinout company Neutral Wireless. It has also been supported by the Scotland 5G Centre rural testbed project.

In technical terms, the technology relies on ‘shared spectrum’ radio waves, used by mobile phone operators to provide services, or private radio waves. However, technicians were able to create a private ‘pop up’ network for the 5G transmission, meaning it was safe, secure and reliable, despite high usage of the mobile signal by event attendees. They called the project ‘5G Remote Production in the Middle of Nowhere’ and created a portable private 5G ‘Lomond Network in a Box’. (NIB)

In the Danish example the NIB was used on the back of a bicycle at to cover the national elections – in conjunction with the national broadcaster TV2 – from Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, the seat of the parliament. 

In a world first for television production, Strathclyde and Neutral Wireless also worked with outside broadcast specialist QTV, to capture images for the international broadcast feed from Edinburgh Airport of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s final departure from Scotland in September.

And a trial four thousand miles away took the team to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Mount Kenya, home to the endangered Grevy’s zebra and Jackson’s hartebeest. The conservancy is also the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and its’ pioneering initiatives include rehabilitating animals rescued from the black market. The technology was tested to live stream to Youtube, featuring local youth TV hosts.

Professor Bob Stewart, who heads the University of Strathclyde SDR team, said: “We have built a truly private network using shared spectrum which broadcasters can have complete control over. Our trials prove the concept that you can be rural and still put the technology into action to make an untethered 5G network. We’ve shown that a private 5G network can be highly portable and rapidly deployed anywhere – worldwide.”

Dr Cameron Speirs, CEO of Neutral Wireless Ltd, said: “We’ve now successfully demonstrated our Lomond 5G private NIB in all kinds of media broadcast environments where it has proved effective, easy to deploy, resilient and provides a significant enhancement in data transfer performance over other traditional wireless technology. As a result, the media and sport broadcast community has now begun to embrace private 5G communications as a game-changer in supporting their media production workflows.”