Verizon snags private 5G network deal with U.K. port operator

Verizon has scored its first European customer for private 5G wireless after introducing an international platform with Nokia last October. The carrier landed a contract with Associated British Ports (ABP) to equip the U.K. Port of Southampton with a private 5G network.

The Port of Southampton is a major supply chain touch point, responsible for £40 billion in U.K. exports each year. It also serves as the U.K.’s largest port for cars (handling around 900,000 a year) and cruise liners, with millions of passengers annually.

It’s just one 21 ABP-operated ports in the U.K., and according to Verizon, will be the first mainland U.K. port to boast a private 5G network.

With Verizon’s private 5G managed service solution, the network runs on the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud application platform, which also offers local edge computing.

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ABP is using 5G to replace its current mixture of connectivity at the Port of Southampton, including LTE and Wi-Fi. Part of the focus is on reduced complexity, as well as reliability and security for port terminal communications. Plans call for consolidating data communications onto a single network, with deployment across selected areas in the East and West Docks of the port.

As for spectrum, ABP is making use Ofcom’s Shared Access License – part of a framework the UK regulator introduced in 2019 to make it easier for businesses to access spectrum for local connectivity. Ofcom offers low power and medium power licenses, with four spectrum bands available.

ABP initially is looking to digitalize port operations using 5G, according to an ABP spokesperson, while also expanding its connectivity footprint.

Immediately, the private network will help address the issue of losing onsite data communications because of unreliable Wi-Fi connections, Verizon said. The carrier called out 5G features of reliability, ultra low latency, throughput and security.

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And soon down the line, technologies like real-time analytics, IoT, and Machine Learning can be used for new services at the port, such as asset tracking, predictive maintenance, and safety monitoring, among others.  

“Verizon’s private 5G is the foundation for a completely dedicated edge compute infrastructure, enabling ultra-low latency at the premise, higher levels of security and deeper customization for our partners,” said Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, in a statement. “Businesses such as ABP, are coming under more pressure to evolve their services at tremendous speeds in order to take advantage of new commercial opportunities. Along with Nokia, we have been able to equip ABP to take advantage of the immediate benefits private 5G offers, and most importantly prepare the Port of Southampton to take full advantage of new technology applications and real-time analytics which will digitally transform its services in the future.”

ABP hopes to roll out 5G across its other ports in the future, which will involve a competitive tender process, the ABP spokesperson noted.

The Port of Southampton private 5G network is expected to be operational by June or July of this year.

Carriers and vendors have been eyeing the private wireless opportunity for 5G – sometimes as partners, like Verizon and Nokia, as well as independently. 

During its March investor day Verizon outlined the addressable mobile edge compute opportunity, including an expected $10 billion (PDF) for the global private networks market by 2025.

The carrier also inked a partnership with Microsoft for 5G private mobile edge computing solutions last year (though the ABP win is strictly a Verizon/Nokia deal).

RELATED: Private wireless: Ericsson and Nokia plot different paths

Ericsson has taken more of a service provider partner route than its Finnish competitor, including teaming up with AT&T on CBRS solutions for private wireless.

Nokia, meanwhile, has targeted private wireless opportunities leveraging both approaches. The vendor counts more than 220 private wireless enterprise deployment globally, and has experience in the maritime and port environment. A recent example includes a LTE/5G private deal, announced by Nokia in January, to deploy its Digital Automation Cloud at the Port of Seattle.