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Ordnance Survey calls for ‘digital twins’ for 5G planning



Report on Bournemouth project highlights importance of geospatial factors in providing infrastructure

National mapping agency Ordnance Survey (OS) has highlighted the case for ‘digital twins’ of local authority areas to support planning for an infrastructure for 5G networks.

It said an initial project run in Bournemouth has shown the approach can save on hardware, eliminate trial and error in the field and speed up the implementation process.

This follows a proposal made late last year by the National Infrastructure Commission for the creation of a digital twin of national infrastructure to make it possible to share data on the relevant assets.

OS has reported on its project testing a planning and mapping tool to support the roll out of 5G using a digital twin of Bournemouth. It incorporated over 30 datasets to create a single 3D view of the town, was integrated with a radio propagation model built by the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, and overlaid with Met Office weather data to create a ‘live’ digital environment.

It was aimed largely at determining the prime locations for antennae. OS said it has helped to do this and provided savings by sharply reducing the number of antennae needed.

Sweet spots

Along with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport it has published a report on the geospatial considerations in planning for 5G. It makes the point that councils aiming to build a network have to think about the ‘sweet spots’ where 5G will be most heavily used, and avoid spending on heavy capacity in areas where it would seldom be required.

It emphasises the importance of establishing use cases, especially for the higher frequency of 26GHz. This frequency is most likely to require the installation of new assets, which in turn can be affected by the physical environment, so planning the infrastructure needs detailed geospatial data.

At the time of launching the Bournemouth project, OS said the aim was to develop a tool that could be scaled up to cover the rest of the UK. A second report, on the effect of the built and natural environment on millimetric radio waves, says that scaling will require a single, consistent set of data specifications and standards, supported by integrated and secure datasets, for the whole urban geography of the UK.

While this may appear a large task, the data could be used for a range of other tasks and thereby maximise the return on investment.

The National Infrastructure Commission has previously said that a digital twin can provide the opportunity to show the benefits from transforming the data into an interoperable format, and provide a better understanding of the interdependencies of parts of the system. This could make the national infrastructure more productive, increasing its performance, efficiency and resilience.

Image from Ordnance Survey

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