Small Cells = Big Opportunities


23rd May 2022

Topic Infrastructure, Living & Inclusion
Technology 5G, Wi-Fi
Sector Infrastructure, Living & Inclusion

In an ever-evolving, technology driven world, Sunderland City Council recognises the importance of implementing change now, to catalyse future competitiveness and opportunities for residents, businesses and visitors to the city.

Embracing data and connectivity to ensure that people and places can thrive in the future, is core to Sunderland‘s mission to leave no one and nowhere behind.

In its pursuit of more inclusive and life-enhancing connectivity, the Council is investing in numerous prolific partnerships to drive forward digital advancements. Explore the benefits of these partnerships, and more specifically the realisation of the advantages of small cell networks, leading to big opportunities across Sunderland in this blog.

A game-changing partnership

Sunderland is a forward-thinking city that is both ambitious and inclusive; digitally minded, yet mindful of the barriers to overcome for the mutual success of residents, businesses and public service providers alike.

Recognising the pivotal role digital infrastructure plays in economic and social regeneration, Sunderland City Council has prioritised numerous public-private sector partnerships.

A game-changing joint venture partnership has resulted in Sunderland City Council and BAI Communications forming a world first, smart city strategic 20-year partnership designed to deliver significant socio-economic benefits to Sunderland’s residents and businesses through advanced wireless infrastructure. This partnership is seeing BAI Communications design, build and operate a set of next generation wireless networks, including a private 5G small cell network.

Implementing next generation smart city infrastructure

According to Cities Outlook 2019, Sunderland was one of the cities with the lowest ultrafast broadband penetration rates. To realise its vision and deliver real benefits to residents, businesses and visitors, Sunderland City Council intervened to put the underpinning connectivity infrastructure in place with a plan to connect people and places via a next generation smart city infrastructure – including a small cell network.

Sunderland’s smart city networks include a city centre deployment of approximately 50 5G small cells connected to a 5G core via dark fibre and an outdoor, secure and ultrafast Wi-Fi network across the city centre.

Sunderland City Council and BAI Communications are building this leading 5G-powered smart city infrastructure to drive inward investment, which is, in turn, underpinning socio-economic benefits as it stimulates the economy and offers life-enhancing opportunities.

The integration of small cell networks across the city is stimulating innovation, operational efficiencies for local manufacturers and opening up prospects for individuals for a better quality of life, more and better jobs and learning opportunities.

Sunderland’s small cell network will be free to all and offers a shareable private network to kick start a range of industry 4.0 use cases, such as asset tracking, predictive maintenance and extending the current 5G CAL pilot.

Accelerating progress in advanced manufacturing and automotive

Sunderland-based 5G Connected Automated Logistics (5G CAL) pilot is currently testing the UK’s first zero emissions automated logistics vehicle on a test track between Nissan and Vantec. The vehicle’s innovative teleoperations system uses next generation technology connected to a private 5G small cell network and this state-of-the-art system allows remote teleoperations to overcome any unexpected or unsafe conditions.

The 5G CAL project was awarded a share of £30 million through 5G Create, an open competition combining British creativity with innovative new uses for 5G as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials programme (5GTT).

This investment is helping to ensure Nissan retains its competitive advantage and continues to invest in its Sunderland plant (one of the biggest car manufacturing plants in the UK employing 30,000 people locally).

This also empowers the people of Sunderland by creating career opportunities in higher paid jobs, as well as growing the sector in the region to attract new industries aligned to automation and teleoperations, as well as retaining and attracting talent into the city.

Big news for businesses

Sunderland City Council and partners are continuing their big investments in 5G and small cell networks across the city, benefiting over 1,250 businesses (plus 1,350 additional commercial and residential properties within the 5G saturation area with the option to access ultrafast connectivity) and driving significant social value and outputs, including:

  • £500m increase in GVA over 10 years, with the 5G small cell deployment estimated to provide a net economic impact of 4.5% during this period
  • 100+ new jobs created as a direct result of accelerated 5G capability and infrastructure works, including small cell networks
  • Sunderland Software Centre’s new 5G IoT Accelerator will encourage a sizeable cohort of startups to setup and create new jobs in the city benefiting from the small cell infrastructure

Sunderland’s National Esports Performance Campus (British Esports) will bring educational, economic and cultural impact to the city as well as jobs and thousands of spectators.

Riverside Sunderland (a new urban quarter in the heart of the city and one of the most advanced business and residential locations in the country) housing will be at the forefront of sustainability, attracting residents to live and work in the city centre and promoting sustainable travel. This includes 1,000 new homes and 93,000m² of commercial office development, extensive public open space and a low carbon, digitally connected environment.

Tech for good

Sunderland’s focus goes beyond the commercial implications of small cells and recognises their potential to have significant social and environmental impact.

Digital development has been key to reversing out migration from the city and the need for more and better jobs and homes to stem this, particularly in and around the city centre, has already progressed, reducing out migration from -748 in 2017 to -403 in 2020.

100% free ultrafast Wi-Fi coverage within the 5G penetration zone will enable 100% digitally enabled events, accelerated digital adoption amongst city centre businesses and ‘digitally excluded’ residential areas. For example, cutting-edge cultural and sports events will bring footfall to the city to stimulate economic activity in the city centre and catalyse engagement and pride among residents.

Next generation digital infrastructure, incorporating small cell networks, will also underpin the effective operation of the mobility hub through real-time booking systems aligning with travel planning apps and public transport information, tracking of assets across the city, supporting sustainable developments and analysing mobility flow.

Another cultural enhancement in Sunderland is ‘Culture House’ – a library and learning centre in the heart of the city – which is a location for everyone to explore immersive learning spaces enhanced by the digital infrastructure.

Digital inclusion – leaving no one and nowhere behind

Remaining true to the core objective of leaving no one and nowhere behind, the new wireless infrastructure will provide safe community internet access areas. This will reduce digital exclusion for individuals and families via extended public Wi-Fi into safe meeting areas, community hubs, within local schools and more as the network rolls out.

The provision of LoRaWAN connectivity will facilitate transmission of data across the Sunderland network sensor landscape supporting assistive technologies, flood management, city-centre and building management, traffic and pedestrian flows, energy monitoring and management – many of which will be implemented using small cell networks connecting a myriad of sensors and operations across the city.

The city’s augmented digital infrastructure will provide greater access to information with messaging platforms on smart phones and large digital screens underpinning crowd control, communicating security incidents and attracting more visitors.

4G and 5G technology are helping to make information more accessible, visible and timely to ensure that important messages are pushed out to help people to feel informed and safe.

Next generation CCTV across the smart city of Sunderland will tackle the city’s high suicide rates and assist public services challenging crime in the area, including geofencing capabilities and data capture, enhancing public safety.

Our healthy smart city – a unique place to live and learn

Creating a healthy smart city in which residents and visitors can access high quality experiences and opportunities to improve their daily lives, is central to the Council’s plans.

A number of pre-existing trials are being scaled through the small cell network for public service transformation, including social care improvement enabling people to live in their homes safely for longerbringing improved quality of life and cost benefits (already benefiting over 2,000 homes utilising Assistive Technology and networked IoT sensors).

A new eye infirmary driving forward advances in healthcare training will utilise the smart city network, utilising an array of Assistive Technology and sensors.

Driving forward the city’s net zero ambitions, Sunderland’s demonstrator home and smart housing projects are facilitating advanced building management, reaping rewards for citizens across communities with economies of scale around energy consumption etc.

The new network also supports a range of sensors including air quality, footfall and traffic monitors transforming the availability of real-time data to inform management of movement across the city, reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality.

Adding to the desirability and opportunities available across Sunderland are the associated investments in education across the city. From ultrafast connectivity in a local primary school to 5G across the university’s campuses, Sunderland’s advanced connectivity is set to boost edtech capabilities and learning opportunities for learners.

Stimulating innovation across our smart city

The new 5G small cell and associated networks rolling out in Sunderland, made possible by Sunderland City Council and BAI Communication’s unique long-term partnership, are already creating huge opportunities for digital innovation.

Not only boosting digital confidence and inclusion, the Council (alongside partners) is transforming public services to continuously improve communications, community safety, transport, education and healthcare.

This is creating jobs and increasing work productivity, as well as improving experiences and maintaining industrial competitiveness to underpin a vibrant, engaging, healthier and smarter city where people progress and businesses thrive.