Vodafone to build UK's first private 5G network

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Vodafone is building the UK’s first private 5G network for the oil and gas industry, promising to improve productivity and safety at Centrica Storage’s plant in Easington.

Unlike previous generations of mobile connectivity, the ultrafast speeds, superior capacity and ultra-low latency of 5G means mission-critical applications can be powered by cellular technology for the first time.

5G will improve reliability, availability and reduce delays – giving it a technical advantage over Wi-Fi.

Private 5G networks

The new network will digitise Centrica’s maintenance and engineering operations, providing greater visibility over critical systems. Coverage will extend across the entire site – both outdoor and indoor.

Engineers will be able to see real-time information that will allow for more efficient and proactive repairs while safety will be improved because issues such as gas leaks will be easily identified. All of these new capabilities will also reduce costs.

“The mobile private network we are building at our Easington terminal will help us address 1970s problems with a 21st Century solution, taking our business to the future from the moment it’s live,” declared Paul Stevens, Information System and Technology Director at Centrica Storage.

“Safety is a critical measure of success at Centrica Storage and the solution we are putting in place in Easington will reduce risk for everyone on our site. By using this technology ahead of our peers, we will establish ourselves as leaders in the future of oil and gas processing.”

Some industrial deployments will use commercially available networks, but private 5G allows the customer to define the specifications of the 5G network and affords a greater degree of control. Private 5G networks can be built with or without the help of a mobile operator.

However, research from Nokia suggests two thirds of businesses will seek help from a mobile operator when adopting 5G services, providing carriers with a lucrative new source of revenue that will increase the rate of investment on next-generation infrastructure.

Vodafone is also installing a private 5G network at Ford’s factory in Essex in the hope that advanced wireless connectivity can accelerate and refine the production of electric vehicles.

“Mobile private networks will revolutionise the way oil and gas plants are managed by increasing efficiency while also improving workers’ safety,” added Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business. “Thanks to this powerful technology Centrica Storage can now start building the gas plant of the future and we are really excited to be with them on this journey.”

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.