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Exploring new ways for 5G to boost business

The West of England Combined Authority is leading a consortium of 12 partners, including Bristol Port Company and the University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab, to demonstrate how 5G private network capabilities can increase efficiency and productivity for the logistics sector.

The project is one of 22 projects funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) under its 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, which supports innovators exploring new uses for 5G to help improve people's lives and boost businesses.

Ship in a port Image credit: Bristol Port Company

The value of 5G for logistics

Three use cases will seek to demonstrate the value of 5G in a logistics environment:

  • Security, traceability, and real-time tracking of goods in a Freeport and Freezone scenario*
  • Autonomous drone flights for port surveillance operations
  • Improvements to road traffic management through 5G smart junctions (AI-based traffic signalling), easing congestion and improving traffic flow around the port.

The 5G Logistics testbed will operate across the West of England, with a primary test zone at Bristol Port and a secondary test zone covering its surrounding junctions. A third test zone will operate at the Gravity Smart Campus in Somerset (acting as a freezone).

The testbed will be trialling mobile edge computing (MEC), opening up the potential for new industry-wide solutions for ports, Enterprise Zones, business parks, local authorities and (eventually) smart cities.

*Bristol Port Company is not a freeport. The project is working with the port to test solutions that would support a freeport scenario, where freeport zones could operate at a distance from the central port site. The wider applicability of these solutions to other ports and the wider logistics sector are being considered in the project.

Bristol Port Image credit: Bristol Port Company

Expected benefits

  • Demonstrate how 5G private network capabilities can offer efficiency and productivity improvements to the logistics sector (and more widely)
  • Show the potential of highly accurate and real-time location and condition tracking of goods in a freeport / freezone scenario – opening up the potential for ports with less surrounding land for development to become freeports
  • Improve road traffic management and improve air quality
  • Replace manually intensive processes with reliable 5G enabled autonomous systems
  • Bring SMEs, universities and public bodies together to make strides towards the digital infrastructure of the future
  • Increase local 5G and smart city expertise
  • Establish the West of England as a world-leader in the development of advanced fixed and mobile communication systems
  • Attract new economic opportunities and jobs



  • DCMS funding: £3,009,828
  • Total project value: £5,212,293



  • January 2021 – March 2022


Public bodies

  • West of England Combined Authority
  • Bristol City Council


  • Cardiff University
  • University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab

End users / testbed hosts

  • Bristol Port Company
  • Gravity Smart Campus
  • Maritime Transport


  • ADVA
  • Airspan
  • AttoCore
  • Cellnex UK
  • Unmanned Life