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A newly developed portable 5G network that runs entirely on a single, credit card-sized Raspberry PI computer could allow small businesses and households to extend 5G coverage and increase capacity -- and at low-cost.
The prototype 5G network built on a Raspberry Pi has been unveiled by Vodafone, who said the industry-first concept can provide an affordable and portable 5G network to users.
Also: Finding Raspberry Pi: Where to buy the latest model and its alternatives
Vodafone is showcasing the Raspberry Pi-powered 5G network as part of the company's plans to make mobile private networks (MPNs) more accessible to the 22 million small-and-medium-sized enterprises across Europe, while also offering extended internet coverage to households.
An MPM provides businesses with an alternative to using a public mobile network by giving them their own fast and secure network connection. They're currently mainly used in large organizations, but Vodafone wants to help small businesses and households benefit from improved connectivity.
The technology could also be adopted by individuals, who could use the portability of a Raspberry Pi, meaning people could set up their own secure networks while using their laptop or smartphone in a public place such a coffee shop, or they could improve connectivity in parts of their own home that a router struggles to reach.
Also: Public Wi-Fi safety tips: Protect yourself against malware and security threats
"We looked at what Raspberry Pi did for computing, in terms of making it more accessible to people of all ages, and we wanted to do the same with 5G," said Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone's director of network architecture.
Designed by engineers at Vodafone's new European R&D Centre in Málaga, the system is a Raspberry Pi 4 with a small, 5G-compatible embeddable software-defined radio (SDR) circuit board, which allows any computing device to be turned into a mini 5G station. The system can be used as a dedicated private network, or as an extension of a larger network.
"Whilst this is just a prototype, it has the potential to bring new cloud, AI and big data technologies within reach of many of the small businesses we support across Europe," said Tenorio.