‘Smart Sunderland’ to deploy data platform & O-RAN architecture
Written by: Richard Hook | Published:
Sunderland quayside at night towards Wear Bridge The 20-year partnership between BAI and Sunderland City Council aims to create a neutral host 5G network along the River Wear (credit: Flickr/Robin Taylor)

Sunderland City Council has announced new deals with Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) provider Mavenir and Internet of Things platform Connexin as part of its ambitious goal to become “the UK’s most advanced smart city”.

Mavenir’s MAVedge solution that runs on a cloud will support BAI Communications’ deployment of a city-centre 5G private network which has the potential to evolve and become a neutral host network. Last year, BAI agreed to build a new private 5G small cell network to “accelerate adoption of transformative digital services for sectors including manufacturing and logistics, education and social care” as part of a 20-year strategic partnership with the council.

The MAVedge system comprises 5G O-RAN and 5G Packet Core solutions to provide advanced 5G mobile connectivity to the local Sunderland community. The O-RAN platform provides BAI Communications the option of deploying radio units from different vendors using software running on commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware.

According to the council, the new network will specifically provide support to projects including providing access to assistive technologies for Smart Homes including sensors and IoT enabled devices; providing enhanced online and remote connectivity and distance learning across schools in the Wearside area; self-driving vehicles and autonomous heavy goods vehicles.

Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at BAI, said: “Open RAN is a cost-effective solution which is based on open interfaces and will give us the ability to deploy in a very agile and flexible way.

“We are delighted to work with Mavenir, a technology innovator company in cloud-native virtualised solutions and a leading player in the Open RAN initiative and 5G Core. Technology we believe will help accelerate Sunderland’s ambitions to become one of the UK’s most advanced smart cities, connecting people, communities and businesses.”

Alongside the creation of an O-RAN platform, the council has implemented the IoT ConnexinsOS platform which features device management, a visualisation dashboard and an analytics facility using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Liz St Louis, Sunderland’s assistant director of smart cities, said the move is a milestone in the council’s plans to build a smart city, and that it plans to work with Connexin on increasing the platform’s scope and capabilities.

“Together we are harnessing the power of technology and digital transformation for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors to Sunderland,” she added. “The new network will accelerate the emergence of more smart services including community applications, digital upskilling opportunities and efficiency drives for our advanced manufacturing clusters across the city.”

The moves mark the latest phase of Sunderland’s smart city project and work towards the recently set government target of 35% of the nation’s mobile network traffic being carried over O-RAN architectures by 2030.

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