The partnership is designed to speed the harbour’s transformation into a smart port.
BT will build and manage a 5G private network designed to provide “ultrafast” mobile connectivity, coverage, reliability and security across the Port’s main operational areas.
The idea is to improve safety, security and sustainability across the Harbour Estate. It is scheduled to go live across “large parts” of the 2,000-acre site early next year. For example, enabling 5G remote controlled inspection will mean staff do not have to work at height so much.
Belfast Harbour is an important gateway to trade and a contributor to the regional economy. Every year, more than 1.75 million people and over half a million freight vehicles arrive and depart through the Port.
Some 24 million tonnes of goods are managed and carried by ferries, container ships and general cargo vessels.
Belfast Harbour is keen to optimise its processes across transport, logistics, supply chain and shipping, as well as boosting productivity through streamlined operations.
Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour added: “The smooth and efficient running of our Port logistics network relies on the accurate tracking and integration of data gathered from multiple sources.
"We believe the increased capabilities of 5G technology can have a beneficial effect on our operations, helping us for example to capture, process and interpret data in real time and giving insights that will speed decision making, better manage vehicle traffic through our Harbour Estate and improve productivity across our operations and services.”
The partnership will also explore how 5G and other technologies such as AI, IoT and connected autonomous vehicles can be combined to improve public safety, physical security, and a greener approach across the Port and in other parts of Belfast City.
Partnership follows pilot
The strategic partnership follows a UK-first trial of 5G technology by BT and Belfast Harbour last year and supports the Harbour’s ambitions to become the world’s best regional smart port.
Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s Enterprise unit, said, “Ports are fundamental to the UK economy, and Belfast Harbour is responsible for roughly two thirds of Northern Ireland’s trade.”