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Bristol unveils high-fidelity radio models for ultra-reliable 5G deployment

Press release issued: 21 March 2018

The University of Bristol's Smart Internet Lab unveiled its world-leading 5G radio models to government and members of the public last weekend [Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 March] at the Layered Realities 5G Showcase.

New software tools were demonstrated based on concepts and algorithms developed at the University. The tool, which is built on more than 20 years of academic research, estimates how radio signal travels from 5G basestations to mobile devices as well as smart city sensors and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

In urban environments radio waves scatter off buildings and bend around corners and over rooftops depending on the radio carrier frequency. Trees are also known to significantly weaken the radio signal, especially at higher carrier frequencies. The Communication Systems and Networks (CSN) Group, which is a founder member of the Smart Internet Lab, is a world leader in the measurement and modelling of radiowave propagation.

Professor Andrew Nix, Head of the CSN Group and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, said: "Today all cellular and Wi-Fi services operate at frequencies below 6GHz. 5G is introducing new 'millimeter wave' (mmWave) bands at 26GHz and 60GHz. At these frequencies the science fundamentally changes, and surfaces become electrically rough - scattering the radio signal in all directions."

To better understand mmWave radio propagation, the CSN Group has recently conducted a range of 5G channels measurements at 26GHz and 60GHz. The resulting temporal and spatial channel data has been used to develop and validate new 5G-ready channel models.

Dr Fai Tila, Technical Project Manager for many of the CSN Group's 5G projects, commented: "By combining newly available high-resolution 3D city maps with our new ray tracing algorithm we're able to predict 5G coverage with unprecedented accuracy. These channel predictions can also be streamed into the Group’s wideband channel emulator. The resulting hardware-in-the-loop platform has been used to evaluate multi-gigabit per second 5G links to trains and vehicles."

5G is introducing two New Radio (NR) technologies – Massive MIMO and beamformed mmWave communications. Unlike existing tools, the Bristol model has been optimised to support the network planning needs of both technologies.

Dr Evangelos Mellios, Lecturer in the CSN Group, added: "Prior to deployment, the software predicts the radio quality throughout the city, which ensures the delivery of a high-quality 5G experience. Tools such as these have the potential to place UK at the forefront of 5G network planning."

The Layered Realities 5G Showcase weekend, hosted by the University's Smart Internet Lab,  Watershed and We The Curious, demonstrated how a share of £16 million investment by the UK Government's Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) to develop an end-to-end 5G network has the potential to revolutionise digital experiences including communications, transport, productivity, education, public safety, inclusion and creativity.

Further information

About the Smart Internet Lab
The Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol, is a hub for internet research which addresses grand societal and industrial challenges. With more than 200 experts and advanced laboratory infrastructure, we perform cutting edge research on optical and wireless communications.  We offer a unique holistic approach to hardware and software co-design solving critical problems in the global internet evolution. Our innovative research on end-to-end, wired-wireless network design and optimization is pushing the boundaries of digital living and communications. Our exceptional track record for performing 5G research with specific focus on fibre and 5G convergence is evidenced by significant funding from the UK Government, EU and industry (e.g. EPSRC TOUCAN, INITIATE, NDFIS, EU: 5G-Xhaul, 5GPICTURE, mmMAGIC, FUTEBOL, FLAME and 5GinFIRE, DCMS UK Government).  

About the Communication Systems and Networks (CSN) Group
The CSN Group was formed in 1985 to address the research demands of the fixed and wireless communications sectors.  It combines fundamental academic research with a strong level of industrial application. The Group has well-equipped laboratories with state-of-the-art test and measurement equipment and first-class computational facilities. Recently the Group has joined forces with the University's High Performance Networks (HPN) Group and the Photonics Research Group to form the Smart Internet Lab. Postgraduate students from the University of Bristol are funded by and trained through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Communications.

About 5G
5G is a reinvention of the internet for an always connected, interactive world. Above ground, it will include the next generation of wireless connectivity - offering massively increased speed, capacity and reliability compared to 3G and 4G. In addition, 5G represents a range of interconnected technologies which will supercharge the internet, offering a huge increase in bandwidth, allowing more things to connect at once, and reducing latency. This will enable near real-time interactivity across home, work and public spaces, adding up to a smarter internet where data is gathered and analysed locally as well as in the cloud.

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