Government’s 5G strategy focuses on testing tech

The government is to invest £16m in a research hub as it announces the creation of a National 5G Innovation Network to act as a testbed for new technologies.

5G networks will be crucial for widespread use of autonomous vehicles – Photo credit: Norbert Aepli, Switzerland, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

The network was announced in the government’s 5G strategy, which was published on 8 March.

The document set out ambitions for the UK to become a world leader in the technology, which is necessary for the widespread use of internet-connected devices and driverless cars as it will allow the transfer of more data than current mobile networks.

Writing in the foreword to the strategy, culture secretary Karen Bradley and commercial secretary to the Treasury Lucy Neville-Rolfe say that digital connectivity is now essential for both individuals and the economy.

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Examples of possible uses of 5G set out in the strategy including allowing companies to use fleets of connected or driverless lorries, speeding up progress to connected, smart cities and giving healthcare providers the ability to monitor wearable sensors and offer better preventative care.

The 5G innovation network will be launched with £16m for a research facility to act as a hub, and run the trials during 2017-18, with an end-to-end trial in early 2018.

There will then be further ‘spokes’ added, which will be testbed that can provide a controlled environment for 5G applications and services to be trialled.

These testbeds will also be used to improve understanding of the different regulatory regimes that 5G services will operate in – which will report by the end of 2018 – and work with the National Cyber Security Centre to support development of appropriate security architectures.

The strategy added that the government was establishing a centre of 5G expertise in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that all 5G work across the UK is carried out in a joined-up way.

Using 5G will also require an investment in the digital communications infrastructure that the new network will rely on, the government said.

It announced a £1.1bn investment in fibre in the 2016 Autumn Statement, but the 5G strategy said the “vast majority of the capital investment for both full-fibre and 5G rollout will need to come from the private sector”.

The strategy also noted that the connectivity networks across the UK that use 5G will be “considerably more complex” than the existing ones.

As such, the document said that the investment in 5G should be matched with continued efforts to “improve mobile coverage and capacity for users now”.

The publication of the 5G strategy was timed to coincide with the 2017 Spring Budget, although some of the announcements had been made in the Digital Strategy earlier this month or the 2016 Autumn Statement.


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