TNO to investigate 5G technology in the North Sea

Ubiquitous digital infrastructure
19 June 2024

TNO will work with Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) to investigate the application of new 5G technology in the North Sea. In this project, we will conduct specific research based on knowledge questions regarding necessary innovations of 5G technology at sea and the associated challenges. This project is funded from the Rijkswaterstaat Corporate Innovation Programme.

Challenges in offshore 5G technology

Together with Rijkswaterstaat, we will be investigating a number of challenges in this regard. For example:

  • Our knowledge of propagation of the 5G spectrum at sea is still limited.
  • As are the number of installation sites.
  • There are challenges with regard to the offshore power supply and backhaul connections to land.
  • Spread use and integration of cloud/edge infrastructure offshore and onshore presents another challenge.

Need for data connectivity in the North Sea

From a government perspective, there is a growing need for data connectivity in the North Sea to perform public tasks. Security and sovereignty must also be safeguarded, especially considering the major economic activities currently developing in the North Sea.

In 2017–2018, the Coast Guard's ‘North Sea Broadband’ project investigated the likely opportunities for broadband connectivity at sea over the next five years. The study defined broadband solutions for the maritime environment and identified the Coast Guard's current and future needs for digital connectivity.

Expansion to include other government organisations

A follow-up study expanded the scope to include other government organisations, given the growing number of government activities in the North Sea and the ambitious plans for Dutch offshore wind energy areas.

To test the new applications of various technological capabilities, Rijkswaterstaat has established the Connectivity Fieldlab North Sea (CFNS) at the Offshore Expertise Centre in Stellendam. The CFNS aims to create an ecosystem where the government, industry and knowledge institutions can work together to improve digital connectivity solutions in the North Sea.

Opportunities for maritime connectivity solutions

Opportunities should be created for new and existing maritime connectivity solutions to enable public tasks to be performed, in conjunction with other interests in the Blue Economy. In addition to satellite links, Wi-Fi, DAB+ and VDES, 5G technology in the sub-1 GHz band has been identified as a key candidate to provide necessary broadband and IoT connectivity to the area of operations of the Coast Guard and other government organisations.

Objectives of the CFNS

Rijkswaterstaat aims to use the CFNS to force a breakthrough by demonstrating how 5G can be used as a communications technology at sea for various applications, with an emphasis on the public tasks of government organisations. By building a 5G test environment, various innovative concepts can be tested for their practical applicability. This will provide insight into the capabilities and maturity of these solutions to achieve a broad roll-out in the North Sea.

Research into Open-Radio Access Networks (O-RANs)

An important aspect of the study is whether the new concept of Open-Radio Access Networks (O-RANs) can satisfy the government’s communication needs in the North Sea. In 2022, we prepared a report describing the status of Open RAN technology and presented it to the House of Representatives. An O-RAN can impact security of supply for telecommunication networks' equipment and safety.

Our experience with 5G technology

TNO has built up extensive experience with 5G technology and 5G field labs in several projects on land, but not yet at sea. Given the major developments worldwide in offshore wind and solar energy harvesting, it is relevant for us to gain knowledge of the specific application of new communication methodologies that can help us meet the challenges that arise at sea in particular.

Get inspired

2 resultaten, getoond 1 t/m 2

10 things you need to know about 6G

What is 6G? What is the difference between 5G and 6G? And when will 6G be in the Netherlands? The 10 most important questions are answered by TNO experts.

Trends & developments in digital society: 5G