Guidance

5G Testbeds and Trials Programme

The 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme is the government’s nationally coordinated programme of investment in 5G.

About the programme

The 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), 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.

The 5G Programme is exploring the benefits and challenges of deploying 5G technologies in line with the following key objectives:

  1. Accelerate the deployment of 5G networks and ensure the UK can take early advantage of the applications those networks can enable.

  2. Maximise the productivity and efficiency benefits to the UK from 5G.

  3. Create new opportunities for UK businesses at home and abroad, and encourage inward investment.

Successes so far:

The 5G Programme funded the 5GUK Test Networks, which built and integrated three university testbeds (University of Surrey, King’s College London and the University of Bristol) to provide the UK’s first end-to-end 5G network in early 2018.

The initial portfolio of projects successfully developed small-scale testbeds and they were used by projects to trial 69 technologies, products, and applications. For example:

- The Liverpool 5G project created the largest 5G mmWave mesh network in the UK and second largest in the world, providing an affordable private network to test new health applications.
- The University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab managed to deliver the world’s first 5G music lesson, connecting musicians in London and Bristol to play together, thanks to the low latency capabilities of 5G.

We’ve already completed 8 projects and have over 30 more projects up and running in 34 counties across 13 regions across the UK, with around 200 project partners.

We’ve encouraged industry to take a leading position in global 5G deployment. We saw all four mobile network operators launching 5G networks in the UK during 2019.

Across the 5G Programme, we’re exploring 140 5G use cases accelerating 5G adoption in targeted sectors (including agriculture, utilities, automotive, transport and logistics).

We’re supporting over 10 new and emerging equipment vendors and testing new access technologies in a range of trials to help broaden and secure the UK’s telecom supply chain in line with the government’s diversification strategy.

Despite the impact of coronavirus, the 5G projects have been resilient in their progress and testing, and 15 new projects from the 5G Create competition were awarded £28 million of industry matched funding in late 2020.

The video below shows some of the benefits 5G could bring through the programme’s initial portfolio of projects. See also more information on our latest projects.

5G Testbeds & Trials

Next Steps:

The 5G Programme is supporting:

This is part of the government’s response to the challenge of diversifying the UK’s supply market for radio equipment set out in the Diversification Strategy. Up to £30 million of government funding will be available.

The aims of the FRANC project are to:

  1. Accelerate the development of high-performance 5G Open RAN solutions that meet UK dense urban requirements by 2025.

  2. Attract new 5G RAN suppliers to conduct R&D in the UK, and foster professional collaborations between potential new entrants into the UK’s public network.

  3. Contribute to the delivery of the 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy’s objectives of disaggregated supply chains, open interfaces by default, and security being a priority in network deployment.

You can find more information on the full list of winners on the UK5G website.

NeutrORAN, a collaborative research project led by Japanese IT and networking multinational, NEC.

  • The project is creating a neutral host Open RAN testbed in the UK. Open RAN is an open-interface solution that is key to diversifying the UK 5G supply chain. The project has been awarded £1.6 million of grant funding.

The SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) with a grant of £1 million.

The Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) project in collaboration with the Department for Transport (DfT), which allocated £7 million from the Shared Outcomes Fund to deliver the DCIA project.

  • The DCIA programme explores the challenges of using publicly owned land, buildings and street furniture to support digital infrastructure and roll out of advanced wireless connectivity. The programme is funded with £7m from the Shared Outcomes Fund. DCMS are leading delivery, in collaboration with the Department for Transport (DfT).

There are four workstreams:

  1. Digital Asset Management: seeks to support national adoption of online tools which digitalise and automate the process of finding and securing rights-of-use of suitable locations for deployment of advanced wireless equipment. You can view the full list of winners on our latest projects page.

  2. PFI contracts: analysing the extent and nature of Public Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts, relating to street furniture assets. This insight is being used to produce best practice guidance for local and regional authorities

  3. Standard contracts: building a library of contracts available for local authorities to engage with digital infrastructure providers

  4. Standards for smart infrastructure: developing publicly available specifications (PAS) for smart lamp posts.

The Fibre in Water open competition, is allocating up to £4 million of R&D funding to projects that develop and build a pilot or pilots to facilitate connecting the hardest to reach areas of the UK.

The project will test if it is cheaper, quicker and less carbon intensive to deploy advanced fixed and mobile telecoms services whilst reducing water leakage from potable water pipes.

  • The competition will enable innovative technologies in the water industry and ‘future proof’ water and telecommunications infrastructure including de-risking the PSTN, 2G and 3G switch-off.
  • This will help to align policy, regulation and commercial interests across multiple Government departments and agencies as well as the private sector in the water and telecoms industries.
  • The project was announced on 9th August 2021 and the competition winners were announced on 6th April 2022. Projects will run up to March 2024.
  • Winning bids will provide insight on existing and new asset locations and feed into the Geospatial Commissions National Underground Asset Register.

In terms of next steps, the 5G Programme will focus on the impacts of the dissemination of knowledge and learning from the funded projects, as the wider 5G ecosystem in the UK continues to develop and demand for 5G technologies grow.

Latest news

6 April 2022

Water pipes in Yorkshire to deliver high-speed broadband in new trial

Fast broadband will run through water pipes in parts of South Yorkshire as part of plans to get better internet access to people quicker

8 February 2022

New plans to slash red tape from 5G roll out and improve mobile phone connectivity

Street lights, bus shelters and traffic lights will host more mobile network equipment to help boost mobile coverage as part of a new scheme to cut red tape and install more 4G and 5G kit.

8 December 2021

New measures to boost UK telecoms security

2G and 3G will be phased out by 2033 under plans to help bring in new telecoms suppliers to build the UK’s 5G networks.

9 August 2021

Broadband rollout trial to target hard-to-reach homes through UK’s water pipes

Fibre optic cables fed through water mains to connect homes, businesses and mobile masts without digging up roads

2 July 2021

New £30 million competition to make UK a pioneer in building 5G networks

A £30 million competition to turn the UK into a leading global destination for developing the next generation of 5G networks has been launched.

13 January 2021

£28 million to trial innovative new uses of 5G to improve people’s lives

The joint investment from government and businesses will fund nine UK-wide projects that will seize the benefits of 5G and help British industries.

13 July 2020

Funding boost for UK tech innovators to seize opportunities of 5G technology

The next wave of government-funded research and development projects aiming to put Britain at the forefront of 5G technology have been announced.

20 February 2020

New £65 million package for 5G trials

Winners of £35 million funding pot to help Britain unlock potential of 5G announced, and new £30 million 5G competition for sectors launched as part of government’s continued commitment to level up infrastructure across the UK.

Get involved

We’re keen to engage with new stakeholders who want to find out more about the 5G Programme and who want to work with government to help build the business case for 5G and actively foster the 5G ecosystem and lead on 5G R&D across the UK.

We’re working with the UK5G Innovation Network (UK5G), which was created to boost and strengthen the development of the 5G ecosystem in the UK. The network currently has around 4,000 members from more than 1600 organisations.

To stay up to date with the latest news, collaboration activities and developments on 5G across the UK, sign up to the UK5G website

If you are a supplier or vendor working on 5G technology, please add your company’s details to the UK5G Supplier’s Directory.

For more information on 5G activity in the UK and insight and commentary on the latest developments coming out of the wide variety of active 5G trials, please see the UK5G Innovation Briefings.

In summer 2021 UK5G announced their sector campaigns to encourage adoption of 5G across a number of sectors including manufacturing, health and social care, transport and logistics and the creative industries.

If you are an organisation working on 5G under the following sectors, please follow the links below

UK5G have also recently launched their place hub on their website It’s got a variety of toolkits, articles and information about related 5G Testbeds and Trials projects like DCIA, WM5G and our RCC projects. For more information visit the hub here.

Current projects

Complete list of our 5G projects

Programme findings

Read lessons learnt on the 5G Programme. More information can also be found in the 5G Programme Initial Evaluation Report.

Case studies

West Midlands Leading the way in 5G Coverage

How one 5G project is aiming to deploy cheaper and fast 5G infrastructure in the West Midlands.

More case studies can be found in the Case Study Annex (first six projects, 5GUK and UK5G) in the 5G Programme Initial Evaluation Report.

Further information

11 October 2019

Overview of 5G related initiatives led or supported by the central and local governments

This document provides an overview of the actions that the Central and Local governments are taking to help create the best conditions for the private sector to invest in developing and deploying 5G in the UK in a timely and efficient manner.

Published 26 March 2021
Last updated 4 May 2022 + show all updates
  1. Added press releases (9th August 2021, 8th December 2021 and 8th February 2022) under 'Latest News' heading. Under 'Get Involved' heading, added paragraph above ('In the summer of 2021...') and below ('UK5G have also recently launched...') bullet points list around sector pages on manufacturing, health and social care, transport and logistics and creative industries. Added bullet points ('The aims of the FRANC projects...') and link to the winners of the FRANC competition under the 'Next Steps' heading. Added text under 'the digital infrastructure accellerator programme explores...' includinng the four workstreams. Added paragrah about the Fibre in Water competition 11/04/2022 - Amended paragraph on the Fibre in Water competition: deleted the line 'competition will close in October 2021'. Added line 'and the competition [winners were announced on 6th April 2022' with added link. Added press release for the Fibre in Water competition winners ('Water pipes in Yorkshire to deliver high-speed broadband in new trial') with description below heading: 'Fast broadband will run through water pipes in parts of South Yorkshire as part of plans to get better internet access to people quicker' Updated link: The SmartRAN Open Network Interoperability Centre (SONIC) with a grant of £1 million (https://www.digicatapult.org.uk/news-and-insights/press-releases/post/dcms-5g-diversification-strategy-leads-to-uk-interoperability-push/). This link was broken.

  2. Updated with latest 5G Programme developments.

  3. First published.