Neutral Wireless provide 5G SA network to support Broadcast For Queen Elizabeth’s Final Departure from Scotland.

Our Lomond “Network-In-a-Box” helped fill the need for a broadcast-capable wireless solution for broadcasting Her Late Majesty’s final departure from Scotland.

In a world first for television production, Glasgow-based outside broadcast specialist QTV deployed innovative ‘private 5G’ network technology to connect cameras used at Edinburgh Airport for the international broadcast coverage of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s final departure from Scotland on September 13.

The private 5G network was designed and deployed by Neutral Wireless in partnership with the University of Strathclyde and the Scotland 5G Centre, building on the invaluable knowledge gained from the Wave 1 Rural project. The technology was further developed and tested through a series of ground-breaking proof-of-concept trials in 2022 as part of IBC’s Accelerator Media Innovation Programme, and featured collaboration and input from some of the world’s leading media technology companies, as well as a number of key international broadcasters.

‘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 created the need for a high-definition, broadcast-capable 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 use of such a private 5G SA network at an airport is also believed to be a first.

The Neutral Wireless Lomond “Network-In-a-Box” deployed at Edinburgh Airport

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. This IBC Accelerator project has delivered a series of breakthrough experimental broadcast use cases, including several world firsts in remote regions of the world including Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, and live to the IBC show floor from the Highland Games in Pitlochry, Scotland, on September 10.

“It is genuinely innovative technology, pioneered in Scotland, and it was because of IBC Media Accelerator Programme that we had the proven use cases and dialogue with all the right industry expertise to make it a reality.

Following the deployment and learnings from the four IBC test networks in New Zealand, Kenya, Ireland and Scotland in the previous four weeks, this was a real-world high-profile test for the 5G SA popup technology in a very important national event.”

Cameron Speirs, Neutral Wireless (CCO)

QTV worked closely with national broadcasters for ‘Operation Unicorn’, which provided a world feed to television channels globally, including content captured over the private 5G network.

“The decision to deploy such a radically new solution came about at the IBC show in Amsterdam less than 48 hours ahead of the events of September 13. Indeed, it is because of IBC’s Accelerator programme that 5G has been so robustly trialled – including our own involvement in that process – and we had every confidence that it had reached maturity for live deployment on one of the UK’s most significant ever live events.”

Jack McGill, QTV (CEO)

The outside broadcast at Edinburgh Airport was also supported by Open Broadcast Systems and Zixi, with the former providing low-latency 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.

Our private network delivered a high-definition live feed of Her Late Majesty’s departure

“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.

From the band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland to the RAF’s C-17 Globemaster taking off and carrying Her Late Majesty The Queen from Scotland for the last time, these were breath-taking live pictures broadcast globally from the airport tarmac. The video link on the 5G network wasn’t there as a back-up – it was a live feed to the world.”

Gareth Gordon, QTV (CTO)

The IBC Accelerator team of project ‘Champions’ on the 5G project comprised University of Strathclyde, Scotland 5G Centre, BBC, BT Sport, Neutral Wireless, BT Media & Broadcast, RTÉ, TV2, Olympic Broadcasting Services, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery, alongside vendor and other participants that included AMD, Microsoft, Net Insight, HAIVISION, Interim Māori Spectrum Commission, Whakaata Māori, Communications Authority Kenya, Singular.Live, Nulink, AWS and Vislink.

More information on the Neutral Wireless 5G NIB is here.

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