Industry giants trial ‘digital twin’ technology to perform site upgrades
Written by: Richard Hook | Published:
Drone near mobile phone mast over London skyline "Drones can help speed up network deployment" (credit: Ericsson)

Vodafone and Ericsson are trialling the use of drones and Lidar-based 3D digital maps to help carry out work in the field.

The duo claim the use of what they refer to as ‘digital twin’ representations of the physical environment will “virtualise” both the network planning and deployment process, as well as site upgrades, to ensure they are “safer and more accurate”.

Network construction currently requires a large number of onsite personnel, including structural engineers, radio and transmission planners, acquisition agents, and site designers.

During the trial, Ericsson’s ‘Intelligent Site Engineering’ technology will be used by a single on-site engineer. Drone and Lidar technology will be used to collect information on structural conditions and line-of-sight measurements.

“This is a demonstration of rapid network delivery capabilities...that will bring vital 5G connectivity to new regions"
Björn Odenhammar (Ericsson CTO)

All captured data will then be accessible via the cloud as a digital twin model, allowing for ‘virtual site meetings’. Vodafone and Ericsson are planning to capture data from 70 different sites due to be upgraded during the initial phase of the trial.

Andrea Dona, chief network officer at Vodafone UK, said: "The introduction of new technology to improve our processes has significant benefits for our own operational efficiencies and reducing our carbon footprint, but it also allows us to deliver on our promise to customers faster."

Ericsson UK’s network chief technology officer, Björn Odenhammar, said: “This is a demonstration of our rapid network delivery capabilities and our commitment to build a world-class digital infrastructure that will bring vital 5G connectivity to new regions.”

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