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Belfast Harbour and BT to build the UK and Ireland’s first 5G Private Network for ports

5G Private Network to accelerate Belfast Harbour’s ambition to become the world’s Best Regional Smart Port

Partnership to stimulate innovation across transport, logistics, public safety, physical security and sustainability

BT and Belfast Harbour today announced a landmark partnership to build a state-of-the-art 5G ecosystem within the Port. The partnership will deliver a series of 5G-led innovations to accelerate Belfast Harbour’s digital transformation and help deliver its smart port strategic ambitions.

In a UK and Ireland-first, BT will build and manage a live 5G Private Network designed specifically to achieve the highest levels of ultrafast mobile connectivity, coverage, reliability and security across the Port’s main operational areas. The highly secure and scalable network will enhance safety, security and sustainability across the Harbour Estate and is expected to go live across large parts of the 2,000-acre site early next year.

Belfast Harbour is an important gateway to trade and a significant contributor to the regional economy. Every year, more than 1.75 million people and over half a million freight vehicles arrive and depart through the Port, while 24 million tonnes of goods are managed and carried by ferries, container ships and general cargo vessels.

The deployment will allow Belfast Harbour to drive operational efficiencies and accelerate its digital transformation through optimising processes across transport, logistics, supply chain and shipping, as well as boosting productivity through the smooth-running of the Port’s operations. The partnership will also explore how 5G and other emerging technologies such as AI, IoT and Connected Autonomous Vehicles can be used together to enhance public safety, physical security and address climate change across the Port and other parts of Belfast City.

For example, the partnership will explore how 5G-led capabilities can help Belfast Harbour to ensure a safe and secure environment for businesses, employees and the wider public. The two organisations will work on improved productivity and safety measures by enabling 5G remote controlled inspection technology to reduce the need for staff to work at height. Meanwhile, the roll out of 5G enabled sensors to monitor air quality and other environmental factors will support Belfast Harbour and the wider city in achieving its green recovery and sustainability ambitions.

The strategic partnership follows a successful UK-first trial of 5G technology by BT and Belfast Harbour last year and supports Belfast Harbour’s ambitions to become the world’s best regional smart port.

Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s Enterprise unit, said: “Our UK-first 5G trial with Belfast Harbour last year was a powerful illustration of how 5G-led technology can transform port operations, propel the success of local businesses and drive economic growth. Today’s deal with Belfast Harbour will make these benefits a reality, with the creation of a sophisticated digital ecosystem comprising of 5G, AI, IoT and Connected Vehicles. This will act as a springboard for Belfast Harbour to achieve its ambition to be the world’s best regional smart port and an innovation hub for the region.

“Ports are fundamental to the UK economy, and Belfast Harbour is responsible for roughly two thirds of Northern Ireland’s trade. With the rising demands on transport and logistics, and the growing need for operations to be safe, secure and sustainable, we’re excited to work with Belfast Harbour as its technology partner, building 5G-led innovations to unlock the productivity benefits for the port and contribute to the region’s green recovery ambitions.”

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour added: “One of Belfast Harbour’s key strategic ambitions is to become a smart port that engages creatively and effectively with customers, visitors and employees. Following a successful test programme last year, we are pleased to have engaged BT to bring 5G technology into Belfast Harbour and delighted that this private network is a first for the UK and Ireland.

“The smooth and efficient running of our Port logistics network relies on the accurate tracking and integration of data gathered from multiple sources. We believe the increased capabilities of 5G technology can have a beneficial effect on our operations, helping us for example to capture, process and interpret data in real time and giving insights that will speed decision making, better manage vehicle traffic through our Harbour Estate and improve productivity across our operations and services.”