At the Autumn Statement 2016, the Government announced its intention to invest in a nationally coordinated programme of 5G testbed facilities and trials, as part of over £1bn of funding announced to boost the UK’s digital infrastructure.
The 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme is the Government’s nationally coordinated programme of investment in 5G. The Programme looks to harness areas where the UK has a competitive advantage – such as in scientific research, engineering talent and our rich variety of technology businesses. It will explore the benefits and challenges of deploying 5G technologies in line with the following key objectives:
- Accelerate the deployment of 5G networks and ensure the UK can take early advantage of the applications those networks can enable.
- Maximise the productivity and efficiency benefits to the UK from 5G.
- Create new opportunities for UK businesses at home and abroad, and encourage inward investment.
Ongoing and completed projects
In March 2018, the six winners of the Use Case Trials, the initial portfolio of projects from the the 5G Testbeds and Trials competition were announced. These projects - led by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), universities and local authorities - represent the best of UK innovation, resources and expertise and will test 5G across a range of applications. By March 2020 we expect to have spent £29 million on these six projects
The initial porfolio of projects are:
In summer 2018 West Midlands Combined Authority was selected as the lead partner for the Urban Connected Communities Project now known as WM5G. The 5G Programme will invest over £20 million (October 2018 to March 2022). The Urban Connected Communities Project will develop a large-scale, 5G pilot across the region, with hubs in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.
Major investment has also already been committed to projects looking at rail and 5G security:
- The Government announced £35 million from the NPIF to explore ways to improve mobile communications for rail passengers. This has been used to upgrade the Network Rail test track in Melton Mowbray and the installation of trackside infrastructure along part of the Trans Pennine route and support to the rollout of full-fibre and 5G networks.
£10 million has been allocated to work with the National Cyber Security Centre to create capabilities where the security of 5G Networks can be tested and proven.
5G RailNext was chosen to test how 5G can provide uninterrupted ‘infotainment’ services across the Seoul Metro system. The project will deliver Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) content - including travel information, video streaming and gaming - through wearable devices such as headsets. The UK and South Korean Governments will give up to £1.13 million grant funding each to support the scheme.
The Programme will award around £6m, subject to grant funding agreements, for Industrial 5G Testbeds and Trials that will focus on developing and understanding the deployment of 5G in industrial settings starting with manufacturing. The projects will explore use cases such as connected precision manufacturing, VR/AR enhanced automation, and real-time data analysis.
The Rural Connected Communities (RCC) Project is funding seven 5G R&D projects in rural areas across the UK and will invest £30 million over two years: 5G Connected Forest, 5G New Thinking, 5G RuralDorset, Connected Communities in the Rural Economy (CoCoRE), Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY), Multi Operator Neutral Host (MONeH) and West Mercia Rural 5G.
Earlier projects that have been funded and successfully delivered include:
- A £16m investment in creating the 5GUK Test Network
- The establishment of UK5G - the national innovation network for the sector
- A 5G mapping project developed in co-ordination with Ordnance Survey
- Up to £30m is available for the 5G Create competition, aiming to explore and develop new use-cases and sustainable business models for 5G applications and services.
- For more information on the Programmes projects please see our 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme Update.