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How ready is the UK for 5G - and 5G for the UK?

  • 4 minute read
  • Published by Crispin Moller on 7 Feb 2022
  • Last modified 7 Feb 2022
5G and its associated use cases could have a transformative effect on many of the UK’s enterprises and industries – from transport and manufacturing to sport and entertainment. But what are the real timelines and is the UK actually ready for 5G?

As part of the UK5G vertical campaigns, we commissioned Real Wireless to help us develop some timelines for key vertical use cases. The result is a new paper, looking at what 5G might really deliver and when it might happen. UK5G spoke to Simon Fletcher, CTO at Real Wireless to find out more. 

1. What is the objective of the white paper?

This paper’s origins lie in our work with UK5G, the national innovation network dedicated to the promotion of research, collaboration and the industrial application of 5G in the UK.

UK5G successfully identified four vertical sectors and there have been significant efforts to reach these key demand-side players and highlight the use-cases that resonate most: this was our starting point. But now, we want to bridge the gap between ecosystems. Our objective is to provide a supply-side assessment to avail system implementations. 

There is a significant element of judgement here because there are many different ways of delivering these systems as part of the use cases. We were asked to present a feel for what could be seen as a risk or an area of uncertainty and so, that is exactly what we have tried to do. 

2. What was your method for approaching the task?

The UK5G team has suggested a demand-side assessment, based on which we’ve looked first at how that could be delivered for four sectors. They are creative industries, transport and logistics, health and social care, and manufacturing. We began with the creative industries – and in particular gaming, production and distribution, sports events, and art and tourism. What is likely to be demanded? What can networks deliver? For example, mobile and AR-led gaming rely on high bandwidth. So does remote TV production. Venue management, by contrast, might rely on low bandwidth IoT to help enhance the sporting or cultural experience. But we can’t be confident that 5G native networks will be able to deliver any of these before releases 16 and 17 come out with feature sets that make these more feasible.

We have created a concept of logical architecture. There are many sources out there claiming the availability of necessary components but we felt it was important to look into these reference points ourselves. This could have been a never-ending task and of course, we were limited for time in our study but we found sources that worked for us and which allowed us to begin to create an accurate narrative around the availability of network technology that could be available to operators. 

There are some things that may not be very well known by the general public and certainly not understood by the vertical sectors. With respect to 5G, trying to understand potential issues – such as the timing of availability of services, how operators wish to deploy (standalone or non-standalone) and rural networks – is absolutely crucial to securing a seamless rollout. 

Our research is, admittedly, complex and overwhelming, especially for those not working in the technology sector: the white paper should hopefully be readable and accessible, to help the UK understand how ready we are for 5G. 

3. Are there any assumptions that you have made as a result of your research? 

The elements of the different sectors are particularly fascinating, especially in terms of their emphasis on private versus public networks. Now having completed the analysis and considered timings, I think there’s an interesting high-level narrative. 

It’s also worth pointing out that 5G technology will eventually be able to deliver these services and a lot more. The reason our assessment is fairly conservative is based on when that might actually happen, along with things like cost, demand and network coverage.

All of these factors will contribute to ensuring that any operational solutions can be provided and that they are then maintained and sustainable. The bottom line is that it always takes longer for trials to turn to early adoption to become mainstream than either the industry or its customers would like. 5G is exciting precisely because it heralds significant changes to networks and service delivery. Such transformation was always going to take time.

You can read the white paper in full here and view the timelines for each of the four verticals here.