A team of engineers from a University of Strathclyde spin out company deployed 5G broadcast technology at the Coronation of King Charles III.

Neutral Wireless worked with the BBC and other key partners to deliver the largest temporary private 5G standalone network on The Mall in London, supporting international broadcasters.

The potentially game-changing technology reduces the reliance on fixed wire connections between camera crews and outside broadcast vehicles, heralding a new use case for 5G.

The 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. It delivered 1 Gbps of wireless connectivity, carrying high definition (HD) video from wireless cameras to production facilities around the world. 

The University of Strathclyde software-defined radio (StrathSDR) team deployed the kit after successful network testing in Loch Lomond, at The Scotland 5G Centre’s Rural Testbed.

The Ross Priory facility in Loch Lomond is over 400 miles from London and the trials were 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.

Professor Bob Stewart at 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 base station 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.