UK5G’s remit is to help UK industry to benefit from 5G technology by fostering an engaged and informed ecosystem.
Although there have been some announcements about standalone 5G in some specific places, most installed 5G public networks are non-standalone. Indeed, people forget that 2021 was the first year in which the full standard was expected to be rolled out in much of the world.
It is also easy to forget that some of the key 5G specifications in the 3GPP standards have only just been finalised (for example, ultra-reliable low-latency communication, or uRLLC, in release 16) and that, as a rule of thumb, the earliest commercial deployment is released two years after specifications are frozen. Low latency is so important for many industrial or creative industry applications.
The RedCap standard in release 17 won’t be frozen until 2022. This “reduced capability” standard will be important for those wanting to deploy less complex, new-radio devices for higher end internet-of-things applications offering much faster data transmission speeds than currently available. This will be vital for many private network deployments that don’t need the overheads and complexity that are so essential for the public networks. Many verticals have no experience of deploying wireless technologies, so a simplified approach will be important.
So different 5G architectures have different benefits and capabilities, and this is where the programme of trials in the UK has been so striking. In the last issue we showed the wide geographical spread and range of industrial sectors that are covered by the DCMS-supported trials. In this issue we profile the range of technologies that are covered by the trials (see pages 35 to 37).
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Thirty of the DCMS-supported 5G trials have reported on their technology priorities. Each project completed a detailed survey, and then had the opportunity to validate their return after comparison with everyone else. We are grateful for the effort the project teams spent on this exercise. The project organisers told us which aspect of the 5G specification they were focusing on, the kind of spectrum licence they were using, aspects of their radio access network, whether their application was indoors or outdoors, technical subjects such as backhaul and aspects of the core they were deploying, and finally the engineering or application foci of their project. The survey asked multiple, detailed questions in eight main categories. We asked all the projects to prioritise against these categories from one to ten. A mark of nine or ten indicated the highest priority.
The results, illustrated in the infographics, show a set of projects that are exploring the boundaries of the technology, ready for when it becomes widely available in the market. In most cases, of course, the projects are not just tackling use cases, but validating business cases as well.
There is still a real gap in understanding between the vertical sectors or enterprises, the demand side, and the telecom industry supply side, which is habituated to servicing the mass consumer, mobile broadband market. There’s still an enormous education and engagement job to do here, to help vertical sectors to understand and adopt 5G as it moves from tech-evangelism and trials to real-world deployments.
We need to answer three, ostensibly simple, questions for these industries: What can 5G do for my company? How much will it cost us? How (and when) do we get it?
In conjunction with DCMS colleagues, a big UK5G focus for the remainder of this year will be on a series of marketing campaigns aimed at specific industries, working with industry leaders and intermediaries, to try to answer these questions.
We will be tailoring use cases and case studies, curating events and activities, transforming our on-line presence, and working with the supply side through the UK5G supplier directory. This will include introducing visualisations of the directory that highlight those suppliers that wish to work with specific sectors. Translating the emerging lessons from the DCMS-supported trials will be an important aspect of the campaigns.
Above all, we want the content that is created to be understandable and, as much as possible, not to utilise the complex language of the wireless engineer.
Of course, 5G technology applies to every sector of the economy, so we have had to make some hard choices. Working with the DCMS and following some analysis, we have decided to prioritise four main sectors: creative industries; manufacturing; health & social care; and transport & logistics.
Work is ongoing, led by our marketing team, and will start to become public-facing in the coming weeks.
Head of UK5G