Well, in short, UK5G is the national innovation forum which was created in 2017 by the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport to share DCMS related project information. 5GUK on the other hand was an exciting £16m 5G Hub partnership linking three leading universities’ test beds together for the development of the world’s first trials of end-to-end 5G systems.
5GUK - A Cutting-Edge Large Scale 5G Test Network
In 2017 a £16m investment was announced by DCMS to fund the development of the world’s first 5G “network of networks” – 5GUK.
Led by the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) in collaboration with the University of Bristol and King's College London the project developed 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualised mobile core network at 3.5GHz and 700 MHz frequency bands for enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC). Linking all three University sites through cutting edge design and research saw all three work in partnership to help position the UK at the forefront of 5G technology development. Public demonstrators were the focus of delivery, targeting industry 4.0, transport health, media and gaming applications. 5GUK completed in March 2018 and laid the foundations for the current national DCMS 5G Test Beds and Trials Programme
Mobile World Congress 2018
Working closely with GSMA Future Networks Group, 5GUK secured a prime position at MWC 2018 for a stand which featured the World’s first end-to-end 5G demonstration and immersive demos.
National 5G Test Beds and Trials Programme
Since the completion of the 5GUK programme developments at 5GIC continue apace around the Centre’s unique 4.5 km2 testbed deployment of 4G and 5G remote radio heads, connected to the core facilities operated by the 5GIC.
A number of significant breakthroughs have been made at 5GIC, such as:
- Multi-site 5G networking infrastructure connection platform
- Novel UK made virtualised Flat Distributed Cloud architecture (5G Core) world leading solutions and software technologies in the area of Software Defined Radios (SDR), Network Function Virtualisation (NFV)
- Context aware dynamic network slicing
5GIC is also proud to be providing core network services and research and development expertise to three of the largest DCMS Test Bed and Trials programmes:
- The Worcestershire 5G Consortium - The country’s most comprehensive industrial 5G Testbed trial with a team of 5G specialists and business experts pioneering the concept of ‘Industry 4.0’. The consortium of partners includes local infrastructure providers, national network operators and research and development facilities. https://www.wlep.co.uk/news/5g-news/
- AutoAir will make 5G technologies available for the validation and development of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) at the UK’s premiere vehicle proving ground at Millbrook. Fast travel speeds complicate cell-tower handoff, and autonomous vehicles will require more network bandwidth than is available currently. It will also investigate how these 5G connectivity solutions could be transferable to both road and rail transportation. http://www.millbrook.co.uk/press-office/news/millbrook-to-become-the-uk-s-first-independent-5g-test-bed-for-connected-and-autonomous-vehicles/
- 5G RuralFirst, led by Cisco and lead partner University of Strathclyde, will deliver testbeds and trials to exploit 5G benefits for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities, to address the challenges of and build the business case for 5G rural deployment. https://www.5gruralfirst.org/
The 5GIC was the brainchild of Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of the University of Surrey’s Institute for Communications systems and it was a privilege for me as Chief Operation Officer to help found the Centre with him. Also, to work with 5GIC’s major industry partners, David Hendon, Chair of 5GIC Strategy Advisory Board, Stephen Temple, Technical Secretary to the Board and Stuart Revell independent advisor to 5GIC, key in forming 5GIC’s long term vision in line with DCMS strategy. Significant technical breakthroughs have been made in many areas by the 5GIC test bed team and key academics, but I must mention 5GIC’s original Systems Architect, Gerry Foster, and now Yogaratnam Rahulan and Serdar Vural for their hugely significant contributions.
It was particularly pleasing to see the number of large international partners which this project attracted from the outset, an indication of how UK Innovation is still considered as a major asset around the world.
Given the scale and complexity of the national 5G programme, which I have outlined briefly here, DCMS foresaw the desirability of having an independent advisory board that could provide unbiased comment on the direction and effectiveness of activity. This input is being provided in no small measure by the UK5G Advisory Board which represents a significant pool of expertise, not just in telecoms, but across UK business and economic interests in general.
For me some of the key challenges which UK5G is beginning to address are:
- Technological Innovation for its own sake is not enough. A key question is how such innovations can be best deployed to make a tangible positive impact on UK productivity
- UK government funding has already proved to be a significant catalyst innovation in the 5G space, but other counties are beginning to invest far bigger sums in their digital national infrastructure. The question for the UK is therefore is how to maximise the effect of the funding that is available to create genuinely sustainable digital innovation ecosystems in key sectors of the economy. (Such sectors span Healthcare and Digital Creative as well as Manufacturing Industry 4.0).
- Opportunities for synergies. One of the most exciting opportunities arising from UK5G is the chance to discuss cross linking of the DCMS Digital funding programme to other Government initiatives, such as the Strengthening Places programmed and the upcoming Made Smarter initiative. These are great examples of “place-based” initiatives, centered around the international strengths of different regions in the UK, creating a strong foundation for the ecosystems mentioned above.
UK5G will be working hard on the above points and many more through 2019. I am very much looking forward to participating in the Advisory Groups efforts to provide all the support we can to DCMS in its efforts to ensure the UK remains at the leading edge of the rise of 5G in the global economy.
Keith Robson, UK5G Advisory Board Member
Ex COO 5GIC