Ports Prove to Be a Leading IoT Use Case for Private Networks as Sites Invest Millions in Digital Transformation Projects

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Elizabeth Stokes | 3Q 2024 | IN-7430

The Port of Aberdeen recently announced a £1 million technology investment that will include a private 5G network implementation. The announcement follows a series of private 5G deployments in European ports and proves the industry continues to be a reliable target for private wireless providers.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


Port of Aberdeen Makes Millions Pound Investment


The Port of Aberdeen recently announced a £1 million technology investment that will include a private 5G network implementation. The announcement follows a series of successful 5G implementations in ports and other transport facilities in England and the rest of Europe. The Port of Aberdeen is one of the United Kingdom’s most frequented ports, managing more than 4 million tons of cargo and around 9,500 vessels a year. Its £1 million upgrade, managed by networking company North, includes revamping the port with video surveillance systems and new devices like 4K marine-grade cameras with video analytics for security and sensors for environmental monitoring.

The initiative proves that ports continue to be a well-defined Internet of Things (IoT) use case for private 5G networks, given the remoteness of many sites and the number of moving assets and IoT devices within them.

Private 5G in Ports Enables Advanced Monitoring Applications, Mostly Led by Video Surveillance


The Port of Aberdeen is betting the £1 million investment will help it become the “smartest port in the UK,” and will expedite its goal of becoming the first net-zero port in the United Kingdom by 2040. A 5G network deployment will enable a range of advanced applications that will digitize daily operations and the tracking of key environmental factors like air quality and waste. The port’s faith in a private 5G network to overhaul its performance has likely been reinforced by the Port of Tyne, a major port in the Northeast of England that implemented a private 5G network last year to great success.

Partnering with Ericsson and BT, the Port of Tyne was the first port in the United Kingdom to have a site-wide private network. The 4G and 5G solution resulted in several advanced use cases, many of which were enabled by upgraded camera systems like those included in the Aberdeen investment. Using 5G-enabled cameras, the Port of Tyne can autonomously track vessel numbers and perform a 360° review of each container for signs of damage. IoT sensors on important infrastructure and equipment can monitor dwell times and emissions, helping the Port of Tyne achieve its sustainability goals. Like the Port of Aberdeen’s deployment, the Port of Tyne’s 5G investment also includes advanced, future technologies like drones that can be used for site monitoring and remote inspections of hard-to-reach infrastructure like cranes.

The Port of Tyne serves as a successful business case for other ports in the United Kingdom and around the world that are looking to streamline operations and improve sustainability efforts. Other ports in Europe, including the Port of HaminaKotka in Finland and the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, have implemented private 5G solutions, proving that the value proposition for private 5G has been persuasive in ports, perhaps more so than in other industries that have been targeted as high-potential private 5G adopters.

Ports Can Be a Hopeful Target Industry amid Some Private 5G Disappointment


Several industries have been singled out by private networking providers as target markets for private 5G. Manufacturing is a primary example—advanced, future use cases enabled by 5G like Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) have been widely touted by private network suppliers as transformative for the industry. Despite this hype, private 5G adoption in manufacturing has been below expectations, particularly in high-value use cases like AMRs. If they adopt a private network, many manufacturing companies will use it to connect non-IoT devices like smartphones and tablets, while others still prefer to depend on Wi-Fi for day-to-day operations. This slower-than-expected adoption has led some network implementers to question the true value of private 5G networks in IoT use cases.

Ports are the exception where the value proposition for private wireless networks is clear-cut. Ports have rigorous connectivity requirements given the amount of assets that travel in and out of their sites every year, but their connectivity options are limited. Often located in remote areas, portions of ports are typically out of reach of public cellular networks. They also cover wide outdoor areas that are not conducive to reliable Wi-Fi connections across the site. Many ports are forced to rely on an amalgamation of networks—like public 4G when it is available, Wi-Fi for indoor offices, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and mesh networks on main sites—to achieve connectivity. This disparate networking arrangement can create coverage gaps and can’t always support the throughput needed for intensive port operations, nor can it help ports achieve their digital transformation and sustainability goals.

Given these characteristics, private 5G suppliers often have a sounder business case when selling to a port than other industries that can still reasonably rely on Wi-Fi and public cellular for their day-to-day operations. As private 5G adoption lags behind in other industries, ports are an opportunity for 5G suppliers to show off the digital transformation their technology can help achieve and hopefully pique the interest of other, more hesitant industries.

Though ports are an exciting opportunity, private network suppliers should anticipate some obstacles. Many ports—particularly in Europe—are plagued by aging infrastructure that needs upgrading before a port can find solid ground to support 5G network infrastructure. Additionally, many ports are publicly owned and potentially have more restrained budgets for digital transformation initiatives. Lastly, ports are often legacy institutions and can be slow-moving. However, public case studies like the Port of Tyne and the Port of Aberdeen are increasingly making the argument that private 5G can bring unprecedented innovation to a well-established industry. Given the obvious need for high-performing connectivity and the absence of competitive obstacles, private wireless suppliers should be more than willing to participate in ports’ digital transformation goals.


Companies Mentioned