With the UK’s recent departure from the EU, it is important to maintain and strengthen relationships with our European counterparts, especially when it comes to new and emerging tech. That’s why sharing expertise and integrating the UK, Nordic and Baltic 5G ecosystems matters and is a key step forward in our future partnerships.
The region is home to both Ericsson and Nokia and offers digitally advanced markets of a combined 33 million people. With this in mind, the engagements focused on building greater bilateral relations through collaborative Research and Development, driving forward new avenues for investment and helping to foster a wider 5G ecosystem to align regulatory and security standards.
Denmark is eager to learn from the UK: it does not have the benefit of a telecommunications company on the scale of neighbours Sweden (Ericsson) or Finland (Nokia). During our first stop, UK Government and industry 5G experts, including DIT Chief Scientific Adviser Mike Short, Ofcom, Cisco Systems and Cybermoor, attended a roundtable in Copenhagen on 15th January to promote UK expertise in 5G and identify areas to collaborate with Danish counterparts.
The roundtable discussion focused on the energy and agri-tech sectors revealing a number of areas of shared interest, including how 5G could support UK and Denmark targets of net zero emissions by 2050. Danish stakeholders were impressed by UK innovation and the technical expertise of the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT). Project partners Cisco Systems showcased the achievements of the 5G RuralFirst testbed and one of the use cases on what 5G can do for a remote salmon farm in the Orkney Islands.
Meanwhile, Cybermoor demonstrated achievements from 5GRIT and how a UAV in real-time can identify grass and soil conditions to help farmers improve the applications of fertilizers or pesticides.
Pictured: Ericsson Headquarters in Stockholm where the UK delegation met with Ericsson representatives and had a tour of their technology showcase facility.
Following Copenhagen, 5G officials, DIT’s Mike Short, and Ofcom travelled on to Stockholm for two days of conversations on sustainable 5G networks and were joined by UK5G, Digital Catapult, Worcestershire 5G, Real Wireless, and Bristol and Surrey Universities. We discussed 5G network research to date and future use cases of the technology with Ericsson, the Swedish Post and Telecoms Authority (PTS; Ofcom equivalent), Swedish Infrastructure Ministry and Royal Institute of Technology.
Project partner, Real Wireless, showcased how the AutoAir testbed is using 5G technologies to accelerate the UK’s infrastructure for connected and autonomous vehicles.
While the Worcestershire 5G Consortium CEO discussed how they have increased productivity at Bosch (video) and Mazak (video) factories by using robotics, big data analytics and augmented reality powered by 5G.
We identified opportunities to further integrate the countries’ 5G ecosystems. Academics agreed to compare research on topics ranging from the use of 5G in smart factories to optimizing network performance through AI. There is appetite to formalise this research exchange through a bilateral agreement, which we will explore in future.
Visiting Ericsson’s headquarters, we discussed how Ericsson intends to build on their already significant presence in the UK market and its partnerships with King’s College on immersive performances and remote healthcare diagnostics. And, of course, the recently announced Industrial 5G Accelerator with Digital Catapult, to help further develop the UK 5G ecosystem.
Continuing the tour, DCMS’s 5G team, Ofcom and UK5G arrived in Vilnius for a 5G conference on 22nd-23rd January, showcasing the UK's 5G development and deployment. The presentations were well received and laid the foundation for future collaboration opportunities as 5G is deployed in Lithuania. The timing was excellent as Lithuania’s national 5G roadmap is just being finalised, to be adopted by the end of March. Discussions generated a lot of interest in the UK’s experience and initiatives for 5G ecosystem creation and testbeds, as Lithuania and other Baltic States are in the initial phase of their creation. Appetite for follow up engagements include an inward visit from the region to the West Midlands’ Urban Connected Communities testbed where they are testing models for cost-effective deployment of 5G infrastructure in highly populated urban areas.
The final visit was to Reykjavik on 28th January, where we were accompanied by senior representatives from NHS Digital Transformation team, Liverpool’s 5G healthcare testbed and E-Health Cluster Limited, to showcase the UK's 5G development in health and social care applications. Surrounded by officials from the ministries of health, welfare, finance and transport, national health practitioners, emergency services and telecoms companies, the event was opened by the Icelandic Minister of Health and generated much interest in the UK’s experience and initiatives.
Separately, given the explosion of tourism in Iceland, the DCMS 5G team discussed some of the successes from the 5G Smart Tourism testbed, where over 100 visitors have experienced reconstructions of the Roman Baths at key moments in history through high-quality 360 video and mixed reality simulations (video). The visit provided useful insight of where Iceland has got to on their own 5G journey and next generation healthcare from which the UK can learn.
After a year of events and engagements, it is no secret to the Nordics and Baltics that 5G is a priority for the UK Government. We have created a strong partner network in the region and will follow-up on discussed research partnerships and knowledge exchanges throughout the year, to ultimately help the UK share it’s world-class 5G ecosystem. More to follow.
Blog by Mo Lari, Head of Cross-Government and International Coordination, 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme
Photo: UK delegation met with the Ambassador to Sweden, Ms Judith Gough CMG (far right)