UK backs six new 5G testbeds in £25m spree


The UK is set to uncover six new 5G testbeds after the country's government devoted £25 million worth of funding to research into the next generation technology.

The projects will explore how wireless tech can benefit the likes rural communities, tourism and healthcare, and are led by small and medium sized businesses, universities and local government. Each testbed will receive between £2 and £5 million in funding.

The first is the RuralFirst partnership between Cisco and the University of Strathcylde, trialling how 5G can meet the challenges of rural connectivity and aid agriculture, broadcasting and utilities. Spectrum sharing and autonomous farming vehicles will also be explored.

5G Smart Tourism will use augmented and virtual reality for tours in Bath and Bristol, using 5G, Wi-Fi and mmWave to connect headsets.

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Worcestershire 5G Consortium comprises organisations including BT, O2 and Huawei and will see how robotics, big data and augmented reality over 5G can increase productivity. The consortium will also host a tech accelerator.

In Liverpool, a 5G testbed will deploy open source 5G networks, VR and AR, and the Internet of Things across deprived communities in the city with a view to track patients' health and loneliness and help hospitals better communicate with the community.

The AutoAir project will how 5G can enable drones and potentially road and rail networks. It will be lead by small cell company AirSpan, which is also bidding in the country's forthcoming 5G spectrum auction. The company will deploy its products, which will operate in licensed sub-6GHz and mmWave bands on a share neutral host platform.

Finally, the 5G Rural Integrated Testbed, dubbed 5GRIT, will explore 5G in remote areas and how high-bandwidth connectivity can boost the likes of food production through AR and drones.

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “The ground-breaking projects announced today will help to unlock 5G and ensure the benefits of this new technology are felt across the economy and wider society.”

Today's funding is part of the UK government's Digital Strategy which aims to keep the country competitive in the development of new kinds of technology.

[Read more: Europe far behind on 5G, bemoans Nokia CEO, amid new trials, Facebook project]

Meanwhile, the UK's regulator Ofcom also announced this morning (12 March) that its latest auction of spectrum, focusing on the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, would take place on 20 March.