The government has announced six recipients of a total £25 million grant that will pave the way for the future of 5G in the UK.
From the Orkney Islands to the West of England, the six projects led by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), universities and local authorities represent the best of UK innovation, resources and expertise. They will test 5G across a range of applications, including smart farming with drones, using the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) to improve healthcare in the home, increasing manufacturing productivity and maximising the future benefits of self-driving cars. The six grant recipients are:
- 5G RuralFirst: Rural Coverage and Dynamic Spectrum Access Testbed and Trial
- Lead organisation: Cisco
- Grant: £4.3m
- 5G Smart Tourism
- Lead organisation: West of England Combined Authority
- Grant: £5.0m
- Worcestershire 5G Consortium: Testbed and Trials
- Lead organisation: Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership
- Grant: £4.8m
- Liverpool 5G Testbed
- Lead organisation: Sensor City
- Grant: £3.5m
- AutoAir: 5G Testbed for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles
- Lead organisation: Airspan Communications Ltd
- Grant: £4.1m
- 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT)
- Lead organisation: Quickline Communications
- Grant: £2.1m
5G represents a fundamental transformation of the role that mobile technology plays in society, delivering rich new services in sectors such as finance, transport, retail and health. It will drive trillions of dollars of additional activity through the world digital economy and the DCMS programme will ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of this exciting global race. Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Founder and Director of 5GIC and leader of 5GUK Networks
The Digital Strategy launched in March 2017 to continually drive the UK’s connectivity, telecommunications and digital sectors, and invest in industries, infrastructure and skills. It is a £1 billion commitment to keep Britain at the forefront of connectivity by accelerating the deployment of next generation digital infrastructure and driving forward new 5G business opportunities.
Deep dive on the winning projects
5G RuralFirst: Rural Coverage and Dynamic Spectrum Access Testbed and Trial
Lead organisation: Cisco Grant: £4.3m
5G RuralFirst, led by Cisco and lead partner University of Strathclyde, will deliver testbeds and trials to exploit 5G benefits for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities, to address the challenges of and build the business case for 5G rural deployment.
Based primarily on the Orkney Islands, and in the farmlands of Shropshire and Somerset, the project will integrate spectrum sharing strategies for 5G; bringing connectivity to rural communities, enabling smart farming in partnership with Agri-Epi Centre (including drones, autonomous farm vehicles and remote veterinary inspections); innovative methods of delivering broadcast radio over 5G working with the BBC, alongside the delivery of 5G connectivity for IoT in utility and other industries in rural areas.
5G has huge interest, but now we have to make it real - not just for cities but for everyone, including into rural communities. It is fantastic to see the government investing in research and development that helps the UK to lead in such a crucial space. Digital economies rely on connectivity so the UK can’t sit and wait. We need to be trialling now, understanding what 5G can do right across the UK. 5G RuralFirst looks to do just that. With live trials in Orkney, Shropshire and Somerset it will not only benefit those communities, but help the entire UK better understand what 5G makes possible, as well as the challenges there are in delivering world-class connectivity to all corners of the nation. Scot Gardner, Chief Executive of Cisco UK & Ireland
5G Smart Tourism
Lead organisation: West of England Combined Authority Grant: £5.0m
This testbed will focus on delivering enhanced visual experiences for tourists using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology in major attractions in Bath and Bristol, including the Roman Baths and Millennium Square. Content and technology developments will be provided by the BBC and Aardman with support from the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab. It will demonstrate self-provision of 5G and Wi-Fi and innovative mmWave backhaul, and will also address safety issues by providing emergency service capacity through network splicing.
Imagine a virtual Roman soldier showing you around the Roman Baths, now imagine this moving 360 degrees on your mobile phone at a resolution you have never experienced before - that’s what 5G technology can offer. The 5G Smart Tourism bid will allow us to trial some exciting technology at our top tourist attractions, whilst looking at wider and longer-term benefits for our region. This new technology holds the key to a more advanced, sustainable and smart future which will revolutionise the way we all live, travel and work. Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor
Delivering new kinds of experiences in new ways for our audiences is a priority for the BBC. This project is an excellent way to trial ways of doing this using AR and VR technology through 5G. Professor Graham Thomas of BBC Research & Development
Worcestershire 5G Consortium - Testbed and Trials
Lead organisation: Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership Grant: £4.8m
A team of 5G and Industry 4.0 experts lead this project – working with Worcestershire LEP, the consortium comprises: Worcestershire County Council, 5GIC at University of Surrey, AWTG, Huawei, O2, BT and Malvern Hills Science Park. With local businesses Worcester Bosch, and Yamazaki Mazak it will focus on ways to increase industrial productivity through preventative and assisted maintenance using robotics, big data analytics and AR over 5G.
It will also have a cyber security aspect, with QinetiQ providing assurances on the ‘security by design’ of 5G and IoT technology. Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to test 5G capabilities in a new commercial tech accelerator located at the Malvern Hills Science Park.
We are delighted to have been successful in our bid which will help businesses deliver greater productivity using 5G technologies. This highlights the huge ambition of Worcestershire’s innovative public and private sector, with key Worcestershire employers leading the way in Industry 4.0.
At a time of increasing global competition for trade and investment, we are confident that we can act as a catalyst for technological innovation in the wider Midlands Engine and nationally. We welcome opportunities for collaboration with the UK’s most innovative minds. Mark Stansfeld, Chair of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership and 5G lead for Midlands Engine
Liverpool 5G Testbed
Lead organisation: Sensor City Grant: £3.5m
Sensor City will lead a consortium made up of public sector health suppliers, the NHS, university researchers, local SMEs and a leading UK 5G technology vendor. Funded for one year in the first instance, the project will see high value technologies including low-cost open source 5G networks, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and IoT deployed across deprived communities in the Liverpool City Region test bed. The consortium will use this technology to reduce the digital divide, while measuring the impact on patient monitoring and support, management of loneliness in older adults, aid to independents living in the home and the facilitation of communication between hospitals and the community.
Sensor City is proud to lead on what is set to be a truly groundbreaking project with a consortium of like-minded partners. The Government’s 5G strategy for the UK presents a fantastic opportunity to transform the lives of many, especially through health and social care, so I think I speak for all partners when I say we’re excited to see this work unfold over the next five years. Alison Mitchell, executive director at Sensor City
A successful demonstration of a 5G testbed in health and social care will see the development of new, innovative and disruptive technologies that will help to bridge the digital divide in the UK, especially in deprived communities.
5G Wi-Fi will not only enable the development of new cost-effective products and services to address real needs and demand, but also bring huge social and economic benefits for the most vulnerable in society, while reducing the demand on hospital-based services. Professor Joe Spencer of the University of Liverpool
AutoAir: 5G Testbed for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles
Lead organisation: Airspan Communications Ltd Grant: £4.1m
AutoAir will aim to make 5G technologies available for the validation and development of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) at the UK’s premiere vehicle proving ground at Millbrook. Fast travel speeds complicate cell-tower handoff, and autonomous vehicles will require more network bandwidth than is available currently. It will also investigate how these 5G connectivity solutions could be transferable to both road and rail transportation.
The project is based on the accelerated development of 5G small cells operating in both licensed Sub 6 GHz and mmWave bands on a shared ‘neutral host’ platform which allows multiple public and private 5G operators to simultaneously use the same infrastructure using network slicing.
We are delighted to have won the UK’s 5G competition, as it further validates the 5G network solutions and associated toolsets that Airspan and its partners have created. 5G networks will be critical for the validation and operation of CAVs and the testbed will be both a showcase and blueprint for mass deployment of 5G along the UK’s transport corridors. Paul Senior, Chief Strategy Officer, Airspan Networks and CEO of Dense Air
At McLaren Applied Technologies we harness our experience in telemetry, software, simulation and predictive analytics to deliver advantage across the transport industry. Being part of the AutoAir 5G NR Consortium reinforces our commitment to accelerating the UK’s mobility challenge of the future, as well as pushing performance, improving reliability and providing progress beyond today’s expectations. Dick Glover, Chief Executive, McLaren Applied Technologies
5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT)
Lead organisation: Quickline Communications Grant: £2.1m
5GRIT will be trialling innovative use of 5G technology across a range of rural applications, such as smart agriculture, tourism and connecting poorly-served communities, using shared spectrum in the TV bands and a mix of local ISPs and self-provision.
The aim is to ultimately make high quality connectivity available across Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Inverness-shire, Perthshire and Monmouthshire. Here the consortium will develop 5G-ready AR apps for tourists and investigate how high-bandwidth wireless connectivity can increase food production in farming, including through use of AR and an unmanned aerial system.
We feel that 5G can unlock the potential of rural areas through better connections for residents, businesses, farmers and visitors. Our consortium brings together innovative businesses and leading Universities to make the 5G dream a rural reality. Steve Jagger, Managing Director of Quickline Communications
For more information on this announcement, visit the government website.