I joined the 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme in the autumn of 2017 and the progress we’ve managed to make in that time has been really thrilling to be a part of. We’re now a good way into 2020 and the momentum within the Programme continues to gather.
So Far, So Good
Our Autoair and Worcestershire 5G projects, funded from March 2018, are almost at the end of their grant funding terms and looking to a commercially funded future. I’ve recently been to Millbrook Proving Ground to see how Autoair has delivered gigabit connectivity to fast moving vehicles. Last year I also managed to see the smart factories of Worcester Bosch and Yamazaki Mazak show how they’re using 5G to maintain their machines and improve efficiency. The future looks really bright for both.
In the West Midlands, WM5G continues to progress well and it’s great to see that series of testbeds develop. Through projects like 5G Application Accelerator, Infrastructure Accelerator and Industry 4.0, WM5G are accelerating the benefits of 5G for people who live and work in the West Midlands. There have been some great demonstrations in the local area already and excited to see more of their work showcased this year.
This year also sees the start of a number of fantastic new 5G initiatives which you should look out for. We recently announced the winners of the Industrial 5G and also our Rural Connected Communities (RCC) competitions.
Industrial 5G is about building on the success of the Worcester 5G project to further investigate what efficiency gains and productivity improvements can be made in UK manufacturing by using 5G connectivity. More than £5 million of funding has been awarded to two industrial projects, led by Ford Motor Company and Zeetta Networks, to test the benefits of using 5G to boost productivity in the manufacturing sector.
Our RCC competition is about funding projects right across the UK that can demonstrate further applications for 5G in rural environments, exploring innovative and new ways of building wireless networks and help continue to build the business case for further investment in digital infrastructure in rural areas. The Government is funding £30 million for seven 5G research and development projects across the UK, with test sites looking to be set up in rural areas, such as Monmouthshire, Orkney and Wiltshire. There are also plans to expand in Northern Ireland. From improving connectivity for businesses, and users in rural areas with little or no coverage, to tourism and mental health services, these projects will aim to create use cases that will enhance people’s quality of life. Last week, you’ll have seen we announced the winners of those competitions and we’re very excited to see all seven of them get started this year.
We’ve also just announced the next grant funding competition, 5G Create. This will be a new £30 million open competition for bids from right across the country to apply for grants from our Programme. Although the scope is completely open and we’d welcome projects from all sectors, we are keen to see bids from the creative industries, such as film, TV and video games. The creative industries is an area where the UK has a rich history of leadership on the global stage and also one which we believe could benefit hugely from advanced mobile connectivity. We’re looking forward to seeing those bids and announcing winners later in the summer.
New Ideas, New Use Cases
It’s going to be an exciting year for the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. We are keen to build our portfolio of projects and tap into sectors that have not been explored as of yet. With the benefits that 5G could bring to users, we are keen to hear from industry, academia and SMEs how we can bring to life new use cases, applications and services. Be sure to look out for the DCMS briefing events taking place across the UK in March 2020.