5G Test Bed Brings UK 5G Technology to the Automotive Industry

As part of the AutoAir project led by Dense Air Ltd, Millbrook is hosting the UK 5G test bed for connected and autonomous vehicles at its vehicle testing proving ground in the UK. The project includes deploying a 5G-enabled network and 60GHz Millimetre Wave (mmWave) connectivity through base stations positioned around the test tracks.

Real-time connectivity with speeds up to 1Gbps enable accurate location and connectivity trials, support the validation of self-driving cars and accelerate the driverless vehicle testing and development in the UK.

The AutoAir project has brought together a large number of the industry’s leading players in 5G technology and is anchored by the work at Surrey University’s 5G Innovation Center (5GIC).




Facts and Figures

The mobile network infrastructure installed at Millbrook Proving Ground as part of the AutoAir project consists of:

  • 77 “small cell” base stations, 46 of which went live in February 2019. These use 2.3 GHz and 3.7 GHz spectrum
  • 22 mmWave (60 GHz) access points around the High Speed Circuit
  • 59 masts: 38 for the small cell base stations, 11 for the mmWave access points and an additional 10 for the mmWave mesh backhaul around the Hill Route
  • 19 km of fibre-optic cable

...over 70km of highly-specialised test tracks and multiple terrains.

This infrastructure offers the transport and technology industries access to:

  • Private, tuneable, neutral-host mobile network
  • Up to 1Gbps real-time connectivity
  • 256 Km/h continuous coverage around the High Speed Circuit, enabling testing of road and rail use cases
  • Access using 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution). The network will fully support 5G New Radio when commercial devices become readily available
  • Secure Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC). Customer data does not leave the Millbrook site

In addition, the site offers:

  • Open-source reference vehicles which can be programmed to emulate a range of vehicles for CAV software development
  • Soft targets and instrumentation expertise for setting real-world self-driving vehicle trials and scenarios
  • A virtual twin, a digital model of the test tracks with 1mm surface accuracy for vehicle simulation
  • A simulator suite enabling vehicle and software developers to develop products in both the physical and the virtual environments


Self-Driving Car Testing with 5G Technology

Deployment of the network at Millbrook Proving Ground enables self-driving car testing to be carried out in a secure environment using a private, tuneable mobile network. Real-time connectivity offers high data throughput at high speed (up to super-fast 5G mobile streaming).

Connected car technology can be tested on the Millbrook network without the involvement of a mobile network provider, or with multiple providers operating at the same time. The private network is secure and data never needs to leave the Millbrook site. In addition, it provides the ability to test vehicles under controlled conditions of network congestion or failure, something that would be impossible in a commercial network.

Simulating a 5G-connected highway, using mobile edge computing and network slicing, for validation testing on connected and autonomous vehicles, enables the sharing of sensor data between road users and infrastructure (V2V, V2X, X2X) over a long distance.

Virtual Reality and Simulation with 5G

Reliable, low-latency and high-capacity communications enable a real-time interface and simultaneous and interactive links between vehicles on the test track and simulators in a laboratory.

Augmented and virtual reality can be used to create virtual events for physical vehicles on test. This allows safe testing of edge cases and complex scenarios when developing driverless cars.

The test bed offers a staged progression from virtual software development to real scenario tests.

Cyber Security

The 5G testbed can be used to simulate mobile network disruption and connectivity issues in order to test software, vehicle and infrastructure resilience.

An open access network, with slicing to enable customers to work on a single network infrastructure, enables rigorous testing of a range network disruption and connectivity scenarios.

Based on both 4G and 5G small cells that operate on a ‘neutral host’ basis, the infrastructure can simultaneously be used by multiple public and private mobile operators, making the network more economical.

Infotainment Testing

Infotainment systems can be tested using the 5G technology to ensure that data transfer, intuitive operation and seamless connectivity is established.

Increased data speeds of up to 1 Gbps through the 5G test bed will support high speed data transfer, secure messaging and the ability to trial complex, secure software updated to vehicles.


Other applications include:

  • Rail
  • Network location trials
  • Industrial IoT


Paul Senior, Chief Strategy Officer at Airspan Networks, and CEO of Dense Air, said:

“AutoAir at Millbrook is one of the most ambitious 5G Testbeds and Trials sites in the world. AutoAir is directly tackling the key 5G technology and system design challenges that CAVs create. The project has now completed the deployment of a hyper-dense small cell network that delivers ultra-high capacities which enables a range of new CAV use cases to be explored. Everyone in AutoAir consortium is excited to have reached this important milestone”.

Lizi Stewart, Managing Director, Transportation UK, Atkins, said:

“This project will transform the way we design, maintain and operate on our future networks. Developing the first 5G neutral network in the UK will allow us to continue our drive for innovation and industry-changing initiatives for the transportation sector.”

Alex Burns, President of Millbrook, said:

“The development of connected and autonomous vehicles is continuing to move at great speed, so it is important that we do the same. The fast rate of progress in the installation of our 5G-enabled network is testament to the hard work and dedication of the consortium team to ensure CAV developers have all the facilities they need to engineer world-class technology."

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO at Telefónica UK, said:

“The AutoAir project is a great demonstration of how partnerships can help shape the use cases and drive the benefits that we all want to see from 5G. Test networks at sites like Millbrook will be crucial in understanding how 5G will enable the development of connected and autonomous vehicles as well as the associated business and consumer use cases which will transform the automotive sector.”

About AutoAir

The AutoAir project is a consortium of partners led by Dense Air Ltd and is hosted at Millbrook. It is a unique, accelerated development programme for 5G technology and is based on small cells that operate on a “Neutral Host” basis. The shared neutral host platform allows multiple public and private mobile operators simultaneously to use the same infrastructure using network slicing, which can radically improve the economics for 5G networks.

Other partners in the AutoAir consortium are Blu WirelessTechnology, McLaren Applied Technologies, the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, Airspan, Real Wireless, Quortus, Telefónica UK and Atkins.

AutoAir is one of six 5G testbeds and is partly funded by the UK government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Launch Day - 12th February 2019

The demonstrations during the launch event used both the sub-6 GHz networks (2.3 and 3.7 GHz) and the 60 GHz mmWave network for Gigabit access to fast moving vehicles. There were also a number of indoor demonstrations of technology that will go live on the network in the coming year.

The small cell network was used to stream video from eight 4K video cameras mounted on moving vehicles to a coach, where the video was shown on screens to the guests attending the launch. This demonstration showed off several 5G features:

  • High capacity data uplink that can be used for the real-time monitoring of test vehicles.
  • Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC). The video data was streamed via an application running on a server on the Millbrook site. This provides low latency and means that the data is secure.
  • The benefits of a hyper-dense small cell network, compared with a traditional microcell deployment. Data speeds of hundreds of Megabit per second are provided from each mast, which gives a huge capacity over the entire Millbrook site.

The small cell base stations were developed by AutoAir lead partner, Airspan Networks, with the core network provided by another UK company, Quortus.

During the demonstration, only one network operator (Dense Air) was using the network. An indoor demonstration of its neutral host capability showed that many operators can share the network. Telefónica is working with AutoAir to test and develop a range of automotive use cases.

The Blu Wireless 60 GHz mmWave network around the High Speed Circuit was used to show data streaming at rates of over 1 Gbps to a car travelling at high speed. One of the primary uses of this sort of network is for accessing data in trains. Deploying the network around the High Speed Circuit at Millbrook provides a unique facility for testing and enhancing this technology for rail, as well as road transport, applications.

The network that has been deployed at Millbrook demonstrates many 5G features. It uses LTE radios, which will be upgraded to 5G New Radio. As part of the AutoAir project, a 5G New Radio small cell base station has been developed by Airspan and the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC). An early version of this base station was demonstrated in the event building. This 5G base station is specifically optimised for deployment in transport networks and uses novel 16-antenna beam forming techniques that have been developed by 5GIC.

Also in the event building, Blu Wireless gave the World’s first demonstration of a 70 GHz link for high speed transport. 70 GHz (the 66-71 GHz band) has advantages over 60 GHz (the 57-64 GHz band) for transport applications because the lower level of absorption of the radio waves by oxygen in the atmosphere and higher power levels allow increased range and reliability. This technology will be deployed and tested at scale at Millbrook in the coming year.



Please contact us at info@millbrook.co.uk for more information.

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