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 at DCMS was set up as a centre of excellence in 2017, to press forward the work in this area. The Programme will encourage and fund the creation of a series of Testbeds and Trials in a range of geographic and vertical market segments. It will explore the benefits and challenges of deploying 5G technologies in line with the following key objectives:
aim to stimulate market development and deployment of 5G technology and infrastructure in the UK
ensure the UK secures an ‘early mover advantage’ in the investment and development of capability and skills as future 5G products, services and applications evolve
Testbeds will help industry understand the challenges of deploying new technologies according to the developing international standards for future 5G networks. Testing 5G applications will help prove different applications (use cases), bringing ideas closer to commercial viability for future markets.
Completed and ongoing projects
£200 million has been allocated to the Programme to date, and early projects that have been successfully delivered include:
The establishment of UK5G - the national innovation network for the sector
In March 2018, the six winners of the first Phase of the 5G Testbeds and Trials competition were announced. These six 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.
Each testbed will receive between £2 million and £5 million in Government grants, as part of a total investment of £41m from private sector and other public sector funding. The projects will run from 2018 to 2019.
The six winning projects in the 5G Trials and Testbeds scheme are:
Major investment has also already been committed to projects looking at roads, rail and 5G security:
£5 million of funding has put forward for an initial trial to test 5G applications and deployment on roads, including helping to test how we can maximise future productivity benefits from self-driving cars.
The Government announced £35 million from the NPIF to explore ways to improve mobile communications for rail passengers. This will be 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.
On 4th September 2018, we announced our preferred partner as the West Midlands Combined Authority for our Urban Connected Communities Project. The Urban Connected Communities Project will develop a large-scale, 5G pilot across the region, with hubs in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.
Up to £50m is currently available for the project, subject to further development and approval of the business plan.