O2 switches on 5G spectrum to power connected car tests

(Image credit: Shutterstock) (Image credit: Shutterstock)

O2 is to provide spectrum to a government-funded project investigating 5G-enabled connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies.

The mobile operator will make 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz airwaves available to AutoAir, which is conducting testing at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

The spectrum will support an on-site network comprising 59 sites and 89 small cells operated by UK wireless provider DenseAir. As part of the deal, this infrastructure will be integrated into O2’s wider 5G network which will launch in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.

Connected car 5G

The aim of AutoAir is to see how the ultra-low latency and high capacity afforded by 5G networks can be used for applications such as enhanced road safety and traffic flow. Earlier this year, test saw a McLaren sports car transmit 4K video in real time over a 1Gbps connection whilst driving at 160mph.

“5G will play a key role in how our country develops over the next few years,” declared Brendan O’Reilly, O2 CTO. “If implemented properly, 5G has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and enable a new host of technologies – including self-driving vehicles. That’s why we’re delighted to be supporting the trial activity at Millbrook, alongside ambitious partners who share our vision of building a truly Mobile Britain.”

AutoAir is one of several 5G projects to have received funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, each investigating different use cases. DCMS has supplied £1.8 million, bringing the total government funding to £6 million, with industry contributing £4.5 million.

“O2’s integration and commercialisation of the 5G network at Millbrook to support both public and private mobile use cases is a world first and will be a reference deployment for the UK mobile industry as it moves to support for 5G applications for Industry 4.0, large enterprise and Government,” said Paul Senior, CEo of Dense Air and chief strategy officer of Airspan Networks.

The standards for connected car applications are a contentious issue. The EU wants to approve Wi-Fi first, believing that its wide availability will make the roads safer more quickly than 5G, which will take time to roll out.

However, the mobile industry argues that Wi-Fi is an outdated technology and fears that approving wireless before 5G will lead to compatibility issues.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.