BT and Belfast Harbour partner in UK-first 5G ports network

BT's Paul Murnaghan (left) and harbour chief executive Joe O’Neill with 5G remote controlled inspection technology, which will improve productivity and safety measures by reducing the need for staff to work at height. Picture: Matt Mackey/Press Eye

BT and Belfast Harbour are partnering to build a new 5G ecosystem which is due to go live across the 2,000-acre port estate early next year.

As part of the deal, BT will build and manage a live 5G work designed specifically to achieve the highest levels of ultra-fast 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, which handles around two thirds of Northern Ireland's entire seaborne trade.

The link-up follows a successful UK-first trial of 5G technology by both parties last year and supports the harbour's ambitions to become the world's best regional smart port.

Paul Murnaghan, regional director for BT's Enterprise division in Northern Ireland, said: “Our trial with Belfast Harbour last year was a powerful illustration of how 5G-led technology can transform its operations, propel the success of local businesses and drive economic growth.

“This deal with Belfast Harbour will make these benefits a reality, with the creation of a sophisticated digital ecosystem comprising of 5G as well as other emerging technologies such as 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.”

Harbour chief executive Joe O'Neill added: “One of our key strategic ambitions is to become a smart port that engages creatively and effectively with customers, visitors and employees, and we are pleased to have engaged BT to bring 5G technology into Belfast Harbour.

“The smooth and efficient running of our port logistics network relies on the accurate tracking and integration of data gathered from multiple sources, and the increased capabilities of 5G technology will be beneficial on our operations, helping us to capture, process and interpret data in real time and giving insights that will speed decision making, better manage vehicle traffic and improve productivity across our operations and services.”

Belfast Harbour is an important gateway to trade and a significant contributor to the north's economy.

Every year, more than 1.75 million people and half a million freight vehicles arrive or depart through the port, while 24 million tonnes of goods are managed and carried by ferries, container ships and general cargo vessels.

The partnership will examine 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 wider region.

The partnership will also explore how 5G capabilities can help Belfast Harbour maintain a safe and secure environment for businesses, employees and the wider public.

For example, 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.

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