QTV and Neutral Wireless Ltd deployed a 5G network tested by IBC’s Media Innovation Accelerator Program for Operation Unicorn

QTV is a Scottish outside broadcast specialist. The company deployed private 5G network technology to connect cameras used in the international broadcast coverage of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s final departure from Scotland via Edinburgh Airport on September 13.

The network on 5G band of frequencies was designed and deployed by the University of Strathclyde. Specifically, by its spin-out company, Neutral Wireless Ltd. This capacity was developed through a series of proof-of-concept trials in 2022 as part of IBC’s Accelerator Media Innovation Programme. The network has been trialled and proven viable for broadcast use cases as part of IBC’s Accelerator Media Innovation Programme, involving an international consortium of broadcasters and media technology vendors over the course of 2021-2022.

Operation Unicorn —the codename of the plan for handling Her Late Majesty’s death should she pass away in Scotland— saw the Queen’s coffin transported from Edinburgh Airport to RAF Northolt by air. This plan created the necessity for a high-definition, wireless solution that avoided the use of cables across the airport runway, whilst mitigating interference and guaranteeing quality of service. The Neutral Wireless pop-up 5G SA network was deployed for QTV within 24 hours of the spectrum licence in the radio frequency band n77 (3.8GHz – 4.2GHz) being granted by Ofcom.

The outside broadcast at Edinburgh Airport was also supported by Open Broadcast Systems and Zixi, with the former providing encoders and decoders, and Zixi providing licences to use the software Defined Video Platform, Zen Master Control Plane and protocol over 5G at short notice.

Professor Bob Stewart, from University of Strathclyde and head of the University’s Software Defined Radio team, said: “The use of a dedicated 5G private network operating in shared spectrum licensed by Ofcom is believed to be a first for live TV news. A spectrum licence was granted in the n77 frequency band at Edinburgh Airport and the network was rapidly deployed on the tarmac beside the runway to provide connectivity for a wireless camera position. The network operated live and with no technical issues for nine hours.”

“Due to the scale of the production in Scotland – and indeed the whole of the United Kingdom – technical resources were stretched beyond capacity. This small but significant site was left without any traditional RF systems for positions that could not be cabled. The situation demanded new and innovative technological thinking to achieve the expectations of the production,” said Gareth Gordon, CTO at QTV.”

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