An innovative project to provide energy efficient and resilient mobile network coverage is set to transform residents’ and visitors’ user experience in Worthing.
As a vibrant coastal town and holiday destination, Worthing experiences significant daily and seasonal fluctuations in visitor numbers and population.
Increasing numbers of people and businesses trying to make calls or get online via mobile phones stretches the existing cellular coverage and outdoor connectivity frequently does not support transactions wirelessly or online.
BEACH will create a cellular network, able to be shared by mobile network operators and hosted on local authority-owned assets, capable of flexing its capacity to supply the connectivity needs of users at peak times.
The £9m project, funded by the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, will deploy optimised and low-impact small radio cells along a pilot area encompassing the town centre and beach front. These will support faster, more reliable mobile speeds and capacity whilst also saving energy across the network.
The project is being led by Dense Air Limited partnered with West Sussex County Council and supported by Worthing Borough Council.
As the lead authority partner, West Sussex County Council will support the project by hosting the equipment on council owned assets, project management support and stakeholder engagement.
Steve Waight, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member (Digital Infrastructure) said: “We are working innovatively with technology operators to improve digital connectivity to support use by residents, businesses and visitors and ensure investment supports a strong, vibrant economy.
“Excitingly, intelligent power management by the BEACH network will decrease power consumption at times of low demand and store power for times of peak demand, saving energy and supporting our county-wide agenda to de-carbonise by 2030.”
The new cells will also provide the cellular coverage needed for electronic payments, both at permanent businesses and for traders attending events or markets. Enhanced network coverage will also further support the delivery of local events and enterprises requiring connectivity and enable promotion and marketing on social media including the ability to live stream events.
Cllr John Turley, Worthing Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “Having a fast, reliable mobile connection is vital for modern life, whether we’re working, shopping or on holiday.
“Thanks to the CityFibre project, Worthing has some of the fastest broadband in the UK. BEACH will build on this by dramatically improving connectivity for everyone that comes to our town centre and seafront and helping our businesses to thrive, all in a sustainable, energy-efficient way.”
Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure Sir John Whittingdale said: “Whether you’re in a busy city centre or a rural village, a fast and reliable mobile connection is vital to staying in touch, accessing services and doing business. In order to secure that, we need to embrace a diverse and secure range of technology that will underpin the network.
“The projects we’re backing today with £88 million in Government research and development investment will use innovative Open RAN solutions to make our mobile networks more adaptable and resilient, with future-proofed technology to support bringing lightning-fast connections across the country for many years to come.”
BEACH is supported by two UK-based mobile network operators who will ensure the project’s success as a world-first shared deployment on new infrastructure developed in line with the regulatory JOTS Framework and utilising O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network) at a scale that is designed to be repeatable in other local authority areas.
BEACH will begin deploying 4G small cells on council-owned assets early in 2024. The new cells will provide a significant improvement in cellular services across the network to meet the increased demand for future 5G services.