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Proximus and Port of Antwerp are preparing for the port's digital transformation by developing a private 5G network

Proximus and Port of Antwerp have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the project "The Digital Schelde". As part of that project, Proximus will develop a private 5G network that can be a driving factor for innovation and digital transformation in the Antwerp port. During a six-month pilot phase, various concrete applications will be tested that offer a better insight into the possibilities of 5G in an industrial context.

"The Digital Schelde" project consists of Proximus developing, on the basis of a test license, a mobile network that will be set up specifically for Port of Antwerp. On this network, both partners, in a co-creation mode, will test and evaluate the potential of 5G for different industrial applications. "The Digital Schelde" will support the development of current and future use cases and in this way stimulate the digital transformation of the port.

The possible applications are in a variety of domains. For example, tugboats can be connected with each other and with the port to enable a more efficient coordination of shipping. By connecting people and their tools with each other, the advent of a private 5G network will, moreover, provide significant gains in efficiency, for example through wireless camera surveillance or the deployment of drones for security applications or inspections. In the future, self-propelled vehicles in the port area or AR/VR applications for remote training and coaching may be added to that.

Proximus is committing itself to investing in the physical building of a network that allows to measure the possible value creation of 5G. Port of Antwerp will focus on the concrete development of use cases that can be tested on the 5G network, where Proximus will provide intensive support and consultancy.

Security and coverage go hand in hand

From a technical viewpoint, Proximus and Port of Antwerp will use a non-standalone architecture that fully meets the 3GPP standards in the core of the network. In addition, the 5G network will be connected to the existing MPLS corporate network of Port of Antwerp and will thus become an important enabler for the port authority's digital transformation.

After the activation of the 5G network in Port of Antwerp's ICT infrastructure, the various applications will be tested for six months in a limited zone inside the port area. At the end of this pilot phase, an initial evaluation will be made. The ultimate aim of Proximus is to explore the possibilities of 5G connectivity in the entire port area and to combine Port of Antwerp's private network with the public mobile network, which provides coverage throughout Belgium. To develop this project, Proximus is using the network equipment of the vendor Nokia.

It has been clear for some time now that companies want to test, in a real and safe context, the concrete applications that 5G will bring with it. Private mobile networks enable massive data processing, robotization and automation in a specially designed mobile environment. This way of working ensures the reliability, security, capacity, low latency and high performance that are required to test business-critical and crucial applications with the necessary confidence.

Proximus has always been a pioneer in the field of 5G. We were the first operator in the country to test 5G in 2016, and in 2018 we performed the first successful 5G outdoor test in Belgium. We're therefore delighted that we can partner up with Port of Antwerp for this project. This goes further than merely testing the technology, since we are developing concrete applications in consultation with an important industrial player like Port of Antwerp. The success of 5G in a B2B environment will hinge on understanding the needs of the customer and jointly developing valuable use cases, not just deploying new network technology. In other words, we're taking a further step towards an effective 5G roll-out, as soon as the spectrum required for this is available. Meanwhile we're of course preparing ourselves to ensure a seamless integration with the public network in the future. Given the importance of 5G to build a digital Belgium, we welcome BIPT's recent initiative, which seeks ways to break the current deadlock around the spectrum. However, a prompt decision on the definitive allocation of the spectrum in the framework of an auction remains a necessity.

Erwin Verstraelen, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at Port of Antwerp

"The port of Antwerp is particularly rich in potential applications for 5G. That's why we want to prepare for the advent and roll-out of 5G in the port area. Because we're aware that there's still a lot to be learnt. Moreover, the partnership with Proximus will allow us to ascertain whether our own fiber network can be a lever for an accelerated deployment."

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