The University of Strathclyde, Cisco and the Scotland 5G Centre will deliver a pioneering new private 5G Cloud Core network to underpin 5G research and development efforts, building on Scotland’s reputation as a leading innovator in rural connectivity, and Cisco’s leadership in the world’s most innovative mobile network deployments.

5G is the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019, and is the planned successor to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current mobile phones.

As 5G technologies require cloud-based solutions with more flexible architectures, the deployment, hosted in the University’s Technology and Innovation Centre, will provide opportunities for organisations internationally to innovate and test new technologies on state-of-the-art private mobile and wireless networks.

Game changing

With 5G delivering potentially game changing applications – for example, new control mechanisms for manufacturing, productivity improvements in agriculture and community-based networks to plug “not-spot” areas in 5G coverage – the Scottish Government is investing £4 million through the S5GConnect programme to accelerate the adoption of 5G.  These funds, channelled via the Scotland 5G Centre, will be allocated to deliver a network of 5G innovation hubs supporting business sectors and innovative use cases. This new 5G Cloud Core is a key contribution towards this initiative to promote innovation, investment and improve rural connectivity.

The 5G Cloud Core network build will see Cisco’s Cloud Services Stack for Mobility, based upon the Cisco Ultra Cloud Core, specifically support and underpin research into private networks in rural connectivity projects – including the 5G New Thinking project, and new emerging projects across  the network of innovation hubs announced last year.

The 5G Cloud Core network design and deployment will be led by Cisco Customer Experience teams, who have already deployed many major 4G and 5G networks across the globe. Working with local partner Ping Network Solutions, the Cisco experts will bring their 5G experience to Scotland, to complement that of the 5G software defined radio team at University of Strathclyde and the Scotland 5G Centre.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “The Scottish Government’s investment of £4m through the S5GConnect programme will enhance and widen digital capabilities across the country. We believe that it is through supporting our businesses to embrace, utilise and innovate in next generation technologies such as 5G that we can go on to create something special for people, businesses and communities now and in the future.”

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde said:

We are delighted to be working with Cisco and our other industry and Scottish Government partners on this exciting project to accelerate the development of private 5G networks.  We have a 30 year heritage working in wireless and mobile communications at the University of Strathclyde, and our 5G and software defined radio teams are working extensively with industry partners to build private and ‘neutral host’ 5G networks.   

“With our wider engineering base, including our research teams based in the heart of Glasgow City Innovation District, and industrial centres such as our Advanced Forming Research Centre, and the Power Networks Demonstration Centre, we are working on use-cases in the areas of transport, space, health, manufacturing, agriculture, and fintech, as well as more conventional efforts to connect people with our rural-based projects and networks.”

Dr David Crawford, 5G Engineering Director from Strathclyde, said: “With the continued global expansion of 5G, more needs to be done to design and operationalise the complex solutions presented by new virtualised and cloud-based technologies, and our research aims to drive improvements in these critical areas.

“Through this development of a 5G core network underpinning our future projects – together with our ongoing collaboration with Cisco – we expect to be at the forefront of 5G research, in a position to support Scottish businesses and actively contribute to the market opportunity for 5G technology”.

Ishbell MacPhail, Country Manager, Cisco Scotland, said: “We are proud to be working on this ambitious build with our long-standing partners at the University of Strathclyde and the Scottish Government’s Scotland 5G Centre initiative.

“We’ve already seen terrific use cases of 5G technology in Scotland. Not only does this development align with our vision of creating an inclusive future for everyone, it demonstrates Strathclyde’s commitment to its local community, to Scottish business more generally, and the steps being taken to further Scotland’s place at the forefront of technological innovation”.

Paul Coffey, CEO at Scotland 5G Centre, said: “Scotland has an exciting and integrated technology scene, and real ambition to create innovative solutions using 5G technologies.  With the innovation hubs being supported by Scottish Government, and partnerships such as this one with Cisco, we can share enterprise grade cloud and core solutions to deliver real benefit to communities and businesses.”

The Centre is sited in Glasgow City Innovation District, a partnership between the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise, the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurial Scotland.

Joint investment

Previous examples of joint investment in Scottish innovation include the Cisco-led projects, 5G RuralFirst and 5G New Thinking. With significant investment from Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) programme – focused on accelerating national digitisation agendas – the 5G RuralFirst project used 5G technology, including a 5G radio access network (RAN) deployed on Orkney, in partnership with key local technology companies on Orkney, (Cloudnet IT Solutions and SHEFA) and full support and engagement from Orkney Islands Council.  This network was installed in some of the harshest and hardest to reach locations in the UK. This award-winning project included collaboration with Orkney-based use-case partners such as Scottish Sea Farms – a salmon farm in Scapa Flow – and Hammar’s Hill windfarm.

New Thinking

5G New Thinking is a Cisco-led project, with 15 partners including principal partner the University of Strathclyde, and the Scotland 5G Centre.  It is an evolution of 5G RuralFirst and also part-funded by Cisco’s CDA programme. This project is investigating the provision of mobile/wireless connectivity via shared and local spectrum licensing options. By working closely with communities, the project will develop a toolkit to allow the creation of neutral host based private networks that provide rural connectivity for cooperatives of consumers, local enterprise, councils and other stakeholders.  This will deliver new options for Scotland and other countries worldwide to proactively plug localised gaps in connectivity using the latest 5G technologies.