GLASGOW’S historic subway system is set to benefit from a ‘pioneering’ new project to explore 5G experiences for commuters.
Researchers from the city’s University of Strathclyde have installed a ‘pop up’ network using ‘next generation’ technology to provide track-to-train connectivity between Buchanan Street and St Enoch stations.
It comes as part of a demonstrator project in partnership with similar work being undertaken on the Seoul Metro system in South Korea. The university said that the UK-South Korea collaboration is aimed to show the potential of 5G in some of the ‘most challenging’ environments.
During trials already undertaken, passengers were able to ‘virtually’ try on and purchase sports goods from fashion outlets while travelling in the tunnels – made possible through the use of 5G-ready headsets and handsets.
Furthermore, the 5G service was able to deliver and measure an augmented reality advertising experience, which allowed passengers to interact with virtual objects overlaid on top of real-world objects.
The university said that with their dedicated private train network they successfully demonstrated the live operation and potential of infotainment in an underground rail environment, with such connections previously not being possible.
Digital infrastructure minister, Matt Warman, said, “Losing phone signal when hopping aboard an underground train can be a pain in our connected age, so I’m delighted that our £200 million 5G scheme has explored giving passengers superb quality connections to unlock new digital experiences, brighten up journeys and boost businesses.”
Dr David Crawford, 5G engineering director from the University of Strathclyde, added, “5G RailNext has shown that 5G mobile technology is well-suited to providing track-to-train connectivity inside tunnels for underground railway systems.
“The deployed infrastructure created a unique test environment, and by testing 5G in these technically challenging contexts, we have a much clearer idea of what is feasible and how consumers can be reached with personalised and engaging information and entertainment content, delivered through new forms of interactive media.”
SPT acting chief executive, Valerie Davidson, commented, “SPT has been delighted to support this project in the Subway, and be part of this international collaboration to look at the viability of running 5G technology within our challenging Victorian tunnel system.
“Following the success of the trial, we are now keen to look further at the potential benefits for our passengers to enhance their journey experience on the Subway. With the majority of Subway commuters now using a smartphone, there is increasing demand and a growing expectation on good connectivity to be accessible everywhere, especially as 5G continues to roll out.
“There are also significant operational benefits to SPT, including the use of digital equipment for our maintenance teams and providing track-to-train connectivity.”
The 5G RailNext project was part of the UK Government’s £200 million 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme, which aims to maximise the opportunities for UK businesses, including SMEs, to develop new 5G applications and services for both domestic and global markets.