Money committed to support next-generation network – although vast majority of country still has limited or no 5G coverage
Although the vast majority of the country still has limited or no 5G coverage, the government has put almost £30m towards supporting the development of the sixth generation of mobile network technology.
In a funding package announced today, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport awarded a cumulative total of £28m to the universities of York, Bristol, and Surrey. The institutions will use the money to support research and development projects related to future networks, including 6G. This work will be assisted by large telecoms firms, including Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung, DCMS said.
A key objective of this research will be to ensure that 6G and other networks of the future “are designed in a way that promotes a more diverse and innovative telecoms market, and brings an end to current network setups where all equipment within a network must be from a single supplier”.
Also announced by DCMS is the investment of £80m in the creation of a UK Telecoms Lab facility, which will be based in Solihull and overseen by the National Physical Laboratory – a public corporation owned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“The lab will act as a secure research facility for mobile network operators, suppliers and academics to research and test the security, resilience and performance of their 5G and, in the future, 6G network technology,” DCMS said. “The facility will also create dozens of specialised jobs in telecoms and cyber security for the region.”
The latest data from Ofcom – gathered in May 2022 – reveals that somewhere between 48% and 64% of outdoor space around the UK currently receives a 5G signal from at least one network provider. But only 5% to 12% is covered by all four operators: EE; Three; O2; and Vodafone.
Digital secretary Michelle Donelan said: “The technology powering our phone and internet networks is evolving rapidly and with 6G on the horizon we must stay ahead of the curve. This government investment will see top UK universities join forces with industry to develop the nuts and bolts underpinning new networks, create skilled jobs testing the security of the latest telecoms tech, and ensure our plan for a more diverse and innovative 5G market is sustained in the future. The funding will also turbocharge our work to strengthen telecoms supply chains, so we are no longer reliant on a handful of companies to develop and maintain our 5G networks.”