Vodafone’s 5G pilot to deliver flex signals across UKPN’s substations


An Ofgem-funded pilot now in development by mobile telco Vodafone and UK Power Networks aims to explore 5G telecommunications technology as a platform for data collection and flexibility arbitrage.

Peaking at 1Gbps (Gigabytes per second), the mobile operator claims its implementation of 5G – fifth generation data switching – is ten times faster than 4G, and up to one hundred times faster than 3G.   The British-controlled firm claims supremacy over rivals for deployment, having already rolled out 5G to 100 UK major conurbations.

The partners’ ‘Constellation’ pilot would see servers in UKPN’s substations seizing and reporting billions of data points on power network transmission patterns, choke points and behaviour patterns.  

Timing storage, discharge and grid balancing transactions to within thousandths of a second will save carbon and open up monetisation opportunities, the parties believe. If deployed across the UK’s entire distribution network, Vodafone estimates that by 2050 efficiency savings alone could result in 63,702 tonnes of CO2e being avoided.

Scotland and the south-east of England have been chosen for the Constellation’s pilot.   Ofgem is providing up to £70 million under its Network Innovation Competition under the RIIO-2 regime.    

Taking their shares will be ABB, General Electric and the University of Strathclyde, all of whom are involved in developing Constellation’s hardware and software. 

Ian Cameron, UKPN’s head of customer services and innovation noted that DNOs’ smart control rooms already interface with smart vehicle chargers.  

”Developing smart substations in the middle will help us facilitate net-zero and deliver real cost and carbon savings for our customers,”.

“UK Power Networks has seen the huge potential of 5G and network slicing,” added Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK’s chief networks officer.  

“5G is not only replacing older and more expensive technologies, it is bringing about new capabilities that benefit everyone – consumers, businesses and our environment,” Dona added.


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