BT Labs' end-to-end network core trial marks important milestone for standalone 5G

BT’s mobile business, EE, was first to launch 5G in the UK and continues to expand its leading network. It offers customers faster speeds and greater capacity in the short term. And as the underlying structures of 5G continue to evolve, some of the bigger impacts of 5G-enabled technology will arrive in the years ahead.

In line with BT’s commitment to building the strongest foundations for the UK, our research teams at the BT Labs, Adastral Park, continue to innovate in communications and digital technology, helping to unlock 5G’s future potential for customers and partners. One important strand of our 5G research is part of the Horizon 2020 programme – an EU-led Research and Innovation programme with nearly €80bn of funding available over its lifetime. Through this project, we’ve been able to accelerate 5G innovation on subjects that are still years away from the market, investigating everything from autonomous drones to 360o remote robotic control.

One of the projects that we have helped build and test is called 5G-VINNI (5G Verticals Innovation Infrastructure), whose aim is to create a set of interconnected, open, end-to-end 5G testbeds across Europe. Once rolled into the live network, this technology will help to realise the full performance potential of 5G technologies, enabling numerous economic opportunities for business across vertical industries like public safety, eHealth, manufacturing and logistics, transportation, media and entertainment, and automotive.

In 2019, BT officially launched its own 5G-VINNI testbed at Adastral Park and opened the project to applications to use the facilities to demonstrate 5G innovation. And earlier this year, we made a significant step towards the future of 5G as the testbed’s underlying infrastructure underwent a major upgrade – evolving its network core to a full 5G stand-alone (5G SA) architecture.

As opposed to all current commercial 5G networks, 5G SA provides a fully 5G end-to-end solution without data traffic being redirected through a 4G network core, as is currently the case for all UK mobile networks.

The underlying technology, is a proof of concept based on a Samsung-supplied commercial 5G NR SA solution, offering the possibility of greater flexibility, improved performance & stability, and a future-proof architecture within 5G networks.

The testbed continues to offer BT and its partners the opportunity to explore a number of 5G use cases and their application within a number of key strategic verticals. These include:

· eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband) – providing high data rate services such as HD video or Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR);

· URLLC (ultra-reliable, low-latency communications) – further minimising network latency for mission critical services such as autonomous driving or remote diagnosis and surgery

· mMTC (massive machine-type communications) – powering 5G services with high density of connectivity, such as smart city grids or massive IoT networks.

In order to investigate these concepts, BT is currently using the 5G-VINNI testbed to engage in a series of experiments, tests and trials of different 5G Innovations.

Watch this space for future details as we explore these exciting new technologies and continue to develop 5G to its maximum potential!


Blog – Paul Muschamp Applied Research, Technology