1. What is your highlight from working on 5G adoption over the past five years?
It would have to be the Birmingham showcase which happened in March earlier this year. That was the first time I got a proper sense of the scale of what we had achieved. We had a full agenda, including presentations from the UK’s leading 5G experts as well as ministers. There were rooms and corridors filled with passionate people who had been funded by DCMS. People were desperate to learn and really, truly connect with one another.
In many ways, it was a personally striking visualisation. Of course, as a delivery person, I knew full well how many projects we were doing but it took seeing the work in real-time to solidify this for me. I also got to meet people face-to-face for the first time, which was lovely.
2. What has surprised you about the 5GTT programme?
One of our objectives was to grow the 5G ecosystem. At first, I think I probably placed less emphasis on this than on other objectives. But building a community has become one of the most meaningful and significant enduring benefits. We are always going to be subject to political winds of change and spending reviews and budgets and fallout from the fuel crisis and so forth so creating a self-reliant network that can function by itself, is really important. I think it ended up being our most profound achievement.
3. What role has UK5G played during the 5GTT programme?
UK5G has undoubtedly played a huge role. I recently attended the final UK5G Advisory Board meeting talking about its critical role in amplifying the messaging around our Programme in a way we could not replicate within government. We could never have had the impact that we did without UK5G, particularly in terms of reach and presenting our success in a very digestible, friendly way.
The network created a broad range of content, providing context on and for the industry, in addition to fuelling partnerships. I will be the first to admit that, at first, I underestimated its importance but its substance quickly became apparent. Getting people to work with each has brought solutions that just would not have happened without UK5G.
4. What role do you think the legacy of 5GTT will have, both in the UK and on the international stage?
5GTT’s core legacy is that a lot of people did an awful lot of work and, in doing so, advanced our collective understanding of the opportunities and challenges associated with 5G. There were a lot of conversations, the momentum of which outlives the funding period of the programme. The legacy will take time to fully form but 5GTT shows that government programmes can nudge things in the right direction.
As for the international stage, I would like to quote Mike Short, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Trade:
Profile of the UK in Telecoms: “We should not forget that 5GTT and UK5G, in particular, put the UK back on the map of Telecoms internationally. This can be seen with the extensive Supplier Directory, wider international interest in UK Telecoms, and the contributions to Innovation seen through the 5GTT programme. These may be hard to quantify precisely but it would have been much harder to deliver the new UK – South Korea / Japan interest without the 5GTT / UK5G focus.”
Collaboration: “This came through the 5GTT activities, but this helped attract new collaboration and inward investment. The involvement of UK MNOs for example could not have occurred without a properly scoped programme for their UK involvement. Within internationally owned businesses such as VMO2 or Vodafone, this made it easier for the work to be done in the UK rather than in other international markets. This spirit of collaboration needs to be maintained.”
UK5G advisory support: “This has been useful for the 5GTT trials but also DCMS and the wider industry. Through the advisory board and cross-sector expertise and focus this has been very helpful as a complement to the actual trials and dissemination more widely.”
Knowledge exchange: “When 5GTT / UK5G first started there was a huge learning curve within both the Telecoms sector and across some of the key geographic and vertical markets. 5GTT with UK5G has raised awareness and understanding across the landscape and supported both the demand and supply sides of 5G.”
UK5G has provided International awareness of adoption and advice where requested. In effect this included benchmarking, international events, collateral for presentations and briefing, and by using the 5GTT projects showcasing these internationally and for visiting delegations. This is all-important for future investment, collaboration and standards. UK5G has supported 5G awareness in the UK based on its capacity, coverage, features and applications, such that we can now talk openly about sunsetting 2G and 3G and preparing for 6G. These are also vital foundations for the future UKTIN activity and its Open Networks and Future Research ambitions”.
5. What’s next for DCMS? Can you tell us more about the Future Network Programme and UKTIN?
We are very excited but it’s important for us to be guided by policy direction. At the moment, people want telecoms policy to support the government’s growth and productivity agenda. But if we’re going to do something worthwhile, it needs to be well organised, disciplined and managed according to the rules of major government projects. The Future Network Programme will be all of those things. The Open Networks Programme, which is about trying to increase supplier diversity, is trying to address our dependency on a small number of vendors. The Shared Outcomes Funds, another strand to our new programme, makes the point that we’re not just a 5G team but a large intervention between government and industry—and we will continue to look for opportunities on that front. UKTIN will build on the work of UK5G and provide a single point of coordination across the UK telecoms ecosystem.
6. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
What has been really satisfying is watching colleagues develop and adjust. The team at 5GTT has grown tremendously. A programme shouldn’t have a permanent structure. It should move and adapt. We had lots of different people working with different experiences. That’s the way to do things, I think. Everyone seems to have enjoyed their work too. That’s really important. The more people enjoy their work, the better the result. I’m really looking forward to moving into the next stage.