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  • 2021 May 8 10:12

    Ports prepare for digital revolution: report examining connectivity at UK's economic gateways

    The BPA says it has published research into mobile coverage and deployments in ports, undertaken alongside experts in digital connectivity, Telint.

    Ports around the world are now increasingly taking advantage of new technology and UK spectrum regulations mean that ports are in a strong position to expand their connectivity. However, this report analyses the state of digital coverage experienced by UK ports and how this can be improved to remain internationally competitive with the ports in Europe and beyond, many of whom are already developing their own innovative 5G networks.

    The report provides case studies of three European ports and provides an overall assessment of the mobile data coverage at over 30 UK ports.

    Key Findings:

    • Better connected ports have an advantage as we approach the second digital revolution
    • Digitalisation of ports will allow them to operate more autonomously and efficiently. 5G will be the catalyst for such innovation, but the current priorities of mobile operators do not readily lend themselves to providing coverage at ports
    • In the UK, plans to switch off old copper networks altogether will accelerate the pace of change. However, ports may find it necessary to actively explore improvements to their fixed connectivity, rather than waiting for infrastructure providers to update their tech, as poor connectivity may result in a loss of competitive advantage.

    Commenting, Dave Happy, Managing Director of Telint and one of the authors of the report, said:

    "If we draw one thing from this research published today; it’s that 5G is certainly coming to ports, and more quickly than previously thought. Change is fast approaching and in many cases is largely being driven by ports themselves."
     
    "To assist in future-proofing the economy for the second digital revolution, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is already funding 5G testbed activities in some of the UK’s larger ports. It would be helpful to see what kinds of 5G networks would best serve ports of all sizes and handing different types of traffic with distinct connectivity needs. DCMS may have a further call for proposals under the 5G programme later this year. There is absolutely no reason why other ports, if interested, should not consider submitting ideas."

    Commenting, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, Policy Manager and Economic Analyst at the British Ports Association, said:

    "The BPA is currently undertaking a long-term review of three core elements of port connectivity, of which digital connectivity is a critical component; supporting both the day to day administrative function of port operations as well as exciting new opportunities such as autonomous loading and unloading ground vehicles that can increase port throughput."

    "Ensuring the connectivity of UK ports is critical to ensure they remain internationally competitive and continue to best serve their local communities. Knowledge published today represents a significant step in surveying the current state of digital connections across UK ports and enabling ports to anticipate future challenges and exploit opportunities, unlocking growth and driving productivity across the UK economy."

    The British Ports Association represents a wide variety of ports, including operators that manage over 400 ports and terminals around the UK. These ports collectively facilitate 86% of maritime trade in the UK as well as providing hubs for energy, marine services, fishing, recreation, and tourism. The BPA is currently undertaking a long-term review on three core elements of port connectivity, which includes digital connectivity.

    Telint provides help to businesses on both the technical and commercial aspects of 5G deployments. From spectrum management to return on investment they enable the creation of wireless networks to optimise operations. They are currently partners in a 5G Testbed in Dorset, funded by DCMS, that includes the Port of Portland.

    The British Ports Association represents the interests of over 100 port members, covering more than 400 ports, terminal operators and port facilities. The UK ports industry plays a key role in the country’s economy as 95% of the UK’s international trade – imports and exports – is carried through British ports. UK ports also handle more than 60 million international and domestic passenger journeys each year. The UK port industry is the second largest in Europe, handling around 500 million tonnes of freight each year. UK ports directly employ around 115,000 people.




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