LJMU partner in £9m project to enhance digital connectivity in high density areas

LJMU are set to be a partner in an innovative project that aims to tackle the challenge of poor digital connectivity in places where there is high user demand such as busy railway stations, football matches or large concert venues.

The Liverpool City Region High Demand Density (Liverpool City Region HDD) project aims to demonstrate the benefits of Open RAN technology, an emerging telecommunications network architecture, to support large numbers of users accessing mobile and internet services in settings such as sports and music venues.

The University of Liverpool-led collaborative project, which involves the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and a consortium of partners including LJMU, has been awarded £9 million funding from the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology.

LJMU academics from the Faculty of Engineering and Technology to provide expertise

LJMU will contribute learning and experience gained from its participation in the successful Liverpool 5G Create project and Health and Social Care Testbed funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The technical contributions to the project will be focused in the areas of wireless network optimisation and security, of which the LJMU team has extensive expertise from previous work in 5G and the move towards integrated 6G networks. A team of researchers will model and investigate both the performance and security of the network, testing the Open RAN technology through various scenarios.

Dr Michael Mackay, Reader in LJMU’s School of Computer Science and Mathematics, said: “We are really excited to be working with our project partners to explore these challenging and timely research questions in a context that can make a significant impact on a local, national and international level. This project will build on our previous work and help further establish the Liverpool City Region as a leader in the development and deployment of Open RAN technology.”

What is Open RAN?

Open RAN is gaining worldwide interest as a way of enhancing connectivity infrastructure by enabling low-cost, power efficient and unobtrusive small cells to meet the demands of high-density areas.

The Liverpool City Region HDD project will initially test the Open RAN technology in a simulated environment before trialling it at five test bed sites across the region, including a mixture of indoor and outdoor sites with a variety of uses, to see if the new HDD network can easily, safely and securely provide connectivity to high number of users in the same environment.

Professor Joe Spencer from the University of Liverpool’s Department of Electrical Engineering & Electronics is leading the Liverpool City Region HDD project.

He said: “This is an innovative and ambitious project which aims to showcase Open RAN technology can support agile and easily managed secure networks in and around Liverpool and demonstrate vastly enhanced connectivity in real-life high-density usage environments.

“Working with our project partners, we hope to demonstrate a new solution to address the issue of digital connectivity and exceed the performance of current and traditional technology solutions.

“This project will put Liverpool at the forefront of Open RAN technology development and demonstration and we hope the outputs from this project can be adopted in the UK and overseas.”

‘Mission to make our region the most digitally connected anywhere in the country’

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Since I was elected Mayor, I’ve been on a mission to make our region the most digitally connected anywhere in the country. Building on our record of innovation, I’m really glad that we are playing a role in this pioneering project that will help to place us, once again, at the cutting edge of digital connectivity.

“Alongside the work I’m doing, such as LCR Connect, our half-publicly owned gigabit capable network, we’re creating what I hope will be a better-connected future where no one is left behind.”

The project builds on the previous track record of the Liverpool 5G consortium that includes the UK’s first 5G testbed project to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

The Liverpool City Region HDD consortium is led by the University of Liverpool in collaboration with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) and ITS Technology Group.

Alongside LJMU, other partners include CGA Simulation, the Hartree Centre, Qualcomm, Radisys, Telet, Weaver Labs, Asset Market, AttoCore and Atticus.

UK Government funding

The Liverpool HDD is supported with an investment of £9 million funding from the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology.

It is one of 19 projects funded through an £88 million investment in the Open Networks Ecosystem (ONE) competition which aims to demonstrate the feasibility and reliability of technology.

Announcing the projects, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale, said: “Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business.

“In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology that will underpin the network.

“The projects we’re backing today with £88 million in Government research and development investment will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come.”


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