Vodafone provides world’s first 5G marine testbed in Plymouth

11 December 2020

Plymouth sound

Vodafone has helped to create the world’s first 5G ocean-based marine testbed in Plymouth, England.

Built using Nokia equipment, the Smart Sound Connect network will be located at Plymouth Sound - a deep inlet in the English Channel near the city of Plymouth - from early 2021.

The network will consist of four mobile sites at the inlet, and an additional site offshore. These five mobile sites will provide 4G and 5G connectivity, utilising the network equipment and cloud-based operation monitoring system that makes up the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud (DAC).

Smart Sound Connect promises to utilise 5G’s ultrafast download speeds and low-latency to help support the development of new marine technology. Businesses will be able to make free use of the network in the furtherance of such fields as advanced applied autonomy, clean propulsion, smart ports, smart shipping, and environmental monitoring using the Internet of Things (IoT).

It’s expected to form the foundation of a virtualised testing platform that’s pretty much unique in the world. With most 5G test platforms confined to dry land, the Smart Sound Connect network will support use cases that others simply cannot. As part of the initiative, clients will be able to work directly with Vodafone and Nokia to develop 5G solutions aimed directly at the marine sector

Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK, said: “Smart Sound is a brilliant initiative from Plymouth City Council that will show just how powerful 5G can be for businesses looking to innovate. 5G can accelerate developments in marine technologies, and this is another area where the UK can be a global leader with the right digital tools and skillset.”


The network is being funded by £1.8 million acquired from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) through the Marine Business Technology Centre. The MBTC is a partnership between Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the University of Plymouth, the University of Exeter and the Marine Biological Association.

While this represents its first marine-based 5G private network, Vodafone has already been heavily involved in several land-based 5G private networks. In November, it was announced that the UK operator would supply a 5G network to HORIBA MIRA’s driverless vehicle test centre in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Back in August, it emerged that Vodafone would build a 5G private network for a Centrica gas plant in Yorkshire. Prior to that, in June, Vodafone supplied 5G connectivity to Ford’s Essex car plant.

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Jon has nine years experience of writing and editing copy for leading publications, as well as attending technology shows and events and conducting interviews. Currently working with 5G.co.uk, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, T3, Digital Spy, What Mobile, Pocket Gamer, and The Gadget Show.

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