Ever wanted your own portable, private 5G network? Well soon you might affordably be able to get just that, as Vodafone has unveiled a prototype device designed to provide this.
Interestingly, this prototype is built on a credit card sized Raspberry Pi computer. Those if you don’t know are single-board computers that people typically use to learn coding and build hardware projects.
So this is one such project, albeit one that’s being pursued by Vodafone rather than an individual. Of course, a private 5G network needs more than just a Raspberry Pi, so the rest of the prototype consists of a small 5G compatible embeddable software-defined radio (SDR) circuit board, made by Lime Microsystems, combined into a 3D printed shell.
The resulting device is around the size of a Wi-Fi router, but in theory could be much smaller eventually, and could also cost around the same amount as a Wi-Fi router.
But this can do more. It could for example be used to provide a fast and ultra-secure mobile network, siphoned off from Vodafone’s public network. That could be handy for homes or when out and about, but even more so for businesses, many of which really need that security and speed – along with reliability.
Another option is not to use it as a private network, but instead to extend coverage of the public network into areas that are normally coverage blackspots, such as a basement. So there’s a lot of potential here.
Vodafone has been showing off this mobile private network (MPN) prototype at MWC 2023 in Barcelona, but the hope is to find interested vendors and turn this from a prototype into a commercial product. If and when that will happen remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an exciting prospect.
James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.
In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.