UK Government seeks city to lead large-scale urban 5G test project

Written by Sam Trendall on 4 April 2018 in News

DCMS is looking for an urban area of around 500,000 inhabitants to trial use of 5G-enabled technology

5G - Image credit: Fotolia

The UK Government is looking for a major city to serve as a large-scale urban testing environment for 5G network technology. 

The project will test the use of 5G-enabled technologies in the delivery of public services, as well as in industries including media, entertainment and manufacturing. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport wants to hear from individual councils or combined authorities interested in leading the 5G project.

It is looking for authorities that serve an area containing “in the region of 500,000 people”, although it will consider applications from cities with a smaller population if they can demonstrate “very strong, clear digital leadership and vision”. 

Digital minister Margot James said: “This is a huge opportunity for an urban area to become the flagship of our ambitious programme to make Britain fit for the future and a world leader in 5G.

“Trialling 5G at scale across an entire city is a chance to prove the economic benefits predicted from this new technology, test different methods of deployment, and boost the connectivity of ordinary people working and living there.”

The overarching aim of the tests will be to examine how the implementation of wireless 5G infrastructure could “make urban communities inherently safer, greener, more efficient and more attractive places to live”, the UK Government said. 

It will particularly look to address problems caused by so-called pinch points – high-traffic areas such as train stations and central business and retail districts, where heavy usage can result in a lack of connectivity.

Uses of the technology likely to be explored as part of the test bed process include conducting GP consultations via video for patients that live in remote areas or have difficulty travelling.

Another possible use case for 5G networks will be deploying sensors to monitor traffic and public transport, and using augmented or virtual reality to enhance visitor experience at tourist sites.

Augmented reality, as well as robotics, will also be trialled in factory assembly lines to try and increase productivity, according to the government. 

Interested local authorities have until 5 June to submit their bids to DCMS.

Between now and June the government will be running workshops which both local authorities and potential industry partners will be able to attend.

Once a winner has been selected, which will likely be later in the summer, the department will then work with its chosen council to pick commercial partners to provide 5G network infrastructure and connectivity services. 

Later in 2018, the UK Government will follow this urban testbed project with a similarly large-scale scheme designed to examine the use of 5G in rural communities.

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