Anchoring 5G in UK Ports

Understanding how to accelerate the roll out of 5G within the UK port sector

Findings from the 5G Smart Ports Collaboration as part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s 5G Testbeds and Trials programme, May 2022

Executive Summary

The port sector plays a critical role in supporting the UK economy, and the efficient and effective movement of trade through these locations is essential. As with other industrial sectors, digitalization is becoming increasingly important and 5G enabled technologies offer new opportunities to further enhance this efficiency and effectiveness. However, the UK port sector can often be conservative in its adoption of new technologies.

While 5G adoption is generally at an early stage, there is the opportunity for the sector to become more proactive in adopting this technology. This report explores in more detail what the opportunities are for 5G technology in the UK port sector, and the enablers and barriers to widespread adoption. 5G will overcome many of the current shortcomings with 4G and Wifi based applications, and we have identified a range of potential use cases for the port environment including:

  • Health and safety
  • Automation
  • Tracking
  • Drones
  • Asset monitoring
  • Data sharing
  • Value adding applications

What is clear, however, is that any 5G deployment will need to bring together multiple use cases in order to justify the investment in the technology. However, there are a wider range of barriers and enablers to wider adoption of 5G, which we categorise as:

  • Investment decision making, which includes alignment with digital strategy, building the business case in light of existing investments and asset renewals and the availability of funds.
  • Use case benefits, which are often seen as uncertain now but are likely to be significant as new use cases develop in the future.
  • Implementation related, with technology readiness being a barrier but collaborative working acting as an enabler.
  • Workforce concerns, including the skills and attitudes of the existing port workforce and recruitment challenges where the port industry needs to access new pools of talent.
  • Government support, through financial measures as well as standards, spectrum availability and supporting skills development.

From this understanding of barriers and enablers, the UK port sector can work to adopt 5G more effectively. In doing so, sharing experiences, best practices and learning will further enhance understanding within the sector.