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Trucks on a container ship

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. By supporting smaller players to develop 5G private networks and services, we are helping to diversify supply - meaning our businesses can take up these game-changing communications networks sooner.

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.

Alex Mavromatis, IoT Solution Architect, University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab

Using a combination of 5G-enhanced location services and the Internet of Things, the University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab is improving on current GPS tracking of goods within the 5G testbeds at Bristol Port and Gravity Smart Campus in Somerset.

By setting visual catchment zones or geo-fences and connecting sensors that monitor the precise location and conditions in shipping containers, we can offer the logistics sector more oversight and, therefore control over goods in transit.


Professor Andrew Potter, Logistics and Operations Management,  Cardiff Business School

Being customs free-zones, it's important that port operators really keep a track of where products are both within the port and also going between different sites. This is to ensure that customs duties are paid at the right time. Beyond freeports, however, there is also a need for port operators to provide value adding services.

With the global pandemic, and also changing trading relationships, the public now sees the value of reliable supply chains. Ports have digitalised immensely over the past 20 years, and what 5G offers is a further step change in that. It will allow greater automation of processes and also more visibility of both resources and cargo.


John Chaplin, Director of External Affairs & Special Projects, The Bristol Port Company

Enhanced 5G will have a tremendous impact for the local and regional economies. The availability of more data and customers having certainty over the location, position and condition of their cargo moving in and out of Bristol Port and to local distribution centres will be a tremendous benefit.

The security of the cargo that passes through The Bristol Port Company’s two ports, but above all, the safety of our dock workers is really important to us. We are fortunate to have our own police force to manage this.

They are supported by the emergency services, but it's a really tough job operating in an active ever-changing working environment.


Jeff Foreman, Police Chief, Port of Bristol Police

Being responsible for policing and security matters across two busy international docks, presents several logistical challenges for my team.

Autonomous drones will allow us to quickly gain high quality CCTV at any location. That, together with the ability to deliver life-saving and emergency equipment, will enhance our capability and capacity.

I am confident that these 5G drone trials will contribute to our vision of being the UK leader in delivering port safety and security.


Jackie Davies, Traffic Control Service, Bristol City Council

Slow acceleration by HGVs can cause problems for existing smart traffic management systems. Meaning HGVs receive a red light when they should be seeing a green signal. It's a phenomenon called ''gap out.'' It creates frustrating delay, unnecessary congestion, causes air pollution problems and wasted fuel.

Through The 5G Logistics project, Bristol City Council is working with Yunex Traffic to figure out whether 5G could provide a solution. Where there is a 5G private network to connect to, the solution could provide a way to reduce HGV congestion around ports, enterprise zones and distribution centres.


Mick Goulding, Commercial Director, Cellnex UK

A key objective of the 5G Logistics project was to build a fully open radio access network, contributing to making the 5G market more diverse and allowing UK companies to meet the growing demand for private networks that offer unparalleled opportunities and secure communications for business.

And thanks to the ingenuity and problem-solving of our consortium, we have created just that in the project staging lab.

How will 5G private networks transform business?

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 – June 2022

The private 5G network will be live for around two months while the project runs its trials.


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

5G logistics FAQs

Eleven 5G New Radios (NR)* will form the 5G testbed:

  • 5 within Bristol Port (Avonmouth), including:
    • 1 macro tower (3 radios)
    • 2 small cells
  • 3 small cells on the junctions surrounding Bristol Port
  • 3 small cells at the Gravity Enterprise Zone site, Somerset

Small cells are wireless transmitters and receivers designed to provide network coverage in smaller areas while the reach of ‘macro’ towers is larger.

The model of the radios is Airspeed 1900 and they will operate using (3.8-4 GHz) radio frequency.

Fibre optic cable will link the 5G testbeds at the port and Gravity.

A 5G Internet of Things (IoT) router is being built to bridge data from sensors and location tracking equipment with Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), delivering real-time transmission over the 5G radio network.

All technological components used in the 5G Logistics research project that are already available on the market meet UK safety standards. Technologies being developed or trialled through this project are being created to meet UK safety standards and will be tested to those standards ahead of becoming commercially available.

*5G New Radio (NR) utilises a wider bandwidth and more efficient transmission techniques than technologies such 4G LTE, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing it to deliver increased data capacity and faster speeds.

No Huawei technology is being used in this project as the supplier is considered a High Risk Vendor by the UK Government.

If by the end of the project (30 June 2022), Bristol Port Company or the prospective occupiers of the Gravity Smart Campus see commercial value in maintaining / building on the 5G private network, it will remain in place. There are other scenarios in which the network could remain, such as for research purposes or managed by a third party to offer services. With nothing decided, the current plan is for the 5G network to be removed at the end of the project.

Some technology used in the smart junctions, specifically that which is not 5G reliant and can still deliver traffic management improvements, will remain in place.

According to the Government and Ofcom’s 5G Mobile Technology: A Guide, all frequencies used for 5G fall within the part of the electromagnetic spectrum classed as ‘non-ionising’ radiation. This means that these radio waves do not carry enough energy to directly damage cells.

The Government takes its guidance from Public Health England (PHE), the agency tasked with protecting our health and wellbeing. Anyone concerned about the safety of 5G is recommended to read this guidance. PHE endorses the international guidelines for limiting exposure to radio waves, published by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). ICNIRP is formally recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In its guidance summary, PHE writes:

“It is possible that there may be a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to an existing network or in a new area. However, the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health.”

In May 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) produced guidance stating:

“There is no evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus. These theories have been rejected by scientific experts in the World Health Organisation and Full Fact, a UK-based independent fact checking charity.”

Further reading

West of England Combined Authority: a regional government body bringing together three local councils: Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The combined authority is leading the delivery of the project, reporting to the project funder, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Combined Authority is also leading a collaboration with other 5G Testbed & Trials projects, working towards recommendations for further education (FE) colleges on the skills needed by local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to make the most of the opportunities 5G offer.

ADVA: a telecommunications vendor providing network equipment for data, storage, voice and video services. ADVA is leading on the development and delivery of the project’s optical switching multi-site gateway.

Airspan: a 4G/5G Radio Access Network (RAN) hardware and software vendor with a strong research and innovation division. Airspan is providing the project’s Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) including 5G radios, antennas and software for the project’s distributed units (DU) and centralised units (CU), as well as staging the project’s solutions in its lab ahead of field deployment.

AttoCore: an SME that develops ultra-mobile core network software technology that can be deployed in consumer, professional and enterprise scenarios. AttoCore is providing the 5G Core and slicing capability, allowing the neutral hosting of several logistics services over one private network.

Bristol City Council: the local government authority for the largest city in the region, with an estimated population of 463,400 and one of the ten ‘Core Cities’ in Great Britain. The council is leading on the 5G-enabled smart junction use case, supported by sub-contractor Siemens (Yunex Traffic).

Bristol Port Company: represents Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Docks and offers shipping, distribution and logistics services. It is a major economic driver for the region, with the company and businesses on the port estate contributing more than £1bn to UK GDP. The port is hosting the project testbed’s main 5G private network and trials of the geo-fenced asset tracking and autonomous drone surveillance use cases.

Cardiff (University) Business School: the Logistics and Operations Management department of the Cardiff Business School is investigating the wider applicability of the project’s 5G use cases across the ports and logistics sector and is leading the 5G-Enabled Smart Ports collaboration with the 5G Ports project (also part of the DCMS 5G Testbed & Trials programme).

Cellnex UK: an independent telecoms infrastructure provider leading on the project’s 5G neutral private network design, integration and deployment of the overall project testbed.

Maritime Transport: independent transport operator, providing full end-to-end logistics solutions across the UK. Maritime Transport is supporting the project’s use case development and providing trucks, equipment and drivers for the project trials.

Gravity: a property management company developing a prospective 616 acre state of the art smart campus, primed to bring tens of thousands of jobs to Somerset and the surrounding regions – including the West of England. The site will host a secondary 5G private network, used to test the asset-tracking use case, acting as a remote ‘freezone’ in the project’s freeport scenario.

University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab: brings together more than 200 experts across the boundaries of wireless, networks, photonics and beyond to address grand societal and industrial challenges. The lab aspires to become a world leader in communications and digital living research. Leading on the geo-fenced asset tracking (freeport) use case, the university is also driving the project’s architecture development.

Unmanned Life: is striving to become a go-to software platform for the seamless orchestration of autonomous robotics. Unmanned Life is leading the port drone surveillance use case, providing an AI-driven autonomy-as-a-service platform.

If you or your organisation are interested in learning more about the project, what 5G can offer, or in getting involved in future 5G-related projects, please contact the 5G Logistics team on: