Researchers Develop High-Fidelity Radio Models to Simulate 5G Signal Propagation

The University of Bristol's Smart Internet Lab unveiled its leading 5G radio models to government and members of the public, on 17th and 18th March at the Layered Realities 5G Showcase. New software tools were demonstrated based on concepts and algorithms developed at the University. The tool, which is built on more than 20 years of academic research, estimates how radio signal will travel from 5G basestations to mobile devices as well as smart city sensors and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

In urban environments radio waves scatter off buildings and bend around corners and over rooftops depending on the radio carrier frequency. Trees are also known to significantly weaken the radio signal, especially at higher carrier frequencies. The Communication Systems and Networks (CSN) Group, which is a founder member of the Smart Internet Lab, is a world leader in the measurement and modelling of radiowave propagation.

Today all cellular and Wi-Fi services operate at frequencies below 6 GHz. 5G is introducing new 'millimeter wave' (mmWave) bands at 26 GHz and 60 GHz. At these frequencies the science fundamentally changes, and surfaces become electrically rough - scattering the radio signal in all directions.

To better understand mmWave radio propagation, the CSN Group has recently conducted a range of 5G channels measurements at 26 GHz and 60 GHz. The resulting temporal and spatial channel data has been used to develop and validate new 5G-ready channel models.

By combining newly available high-resolution 3D city maps with their new ray tracing algorithm, CSN Group was able to predict 5G coverage with unprecedented accuracy. These channel predictions can also be streamed into the Group’s wideband channel emulator. The resulting hardware-in-the-loop platform has been used to evaluate multi-gigabit per second 5G links to trains and vehicles.

5G is introducing two New Radio (NR) technologies - Massive MIMO and beamformed mmWave communications. Unlike existing tools, the Bristol model has been optimised to support the network planning needs of both technologies.

The Layered Realities 5G Showcase weekend, hosted by the University's Smart Internet Lab, Watershed and We The Curious, demonstrated how a share of £16 million investment by the UK Government's Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) to develop an end-to-end 5G network has the potential to revolutionise digital experiences including communications, transport, productivity, education, public safety, inclusion and creativity.