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Vodafone lobbies British government to support 5G take-up by industry

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Another day, another call from an operator for government action on 5G: today's announcement of £53mn public funding for UK industry doesn't mention 5G…

A report published by Vodafone predicts that adopting 5G could add as much as £6.3 billion (€7.365 billion) to the value of UK manufacturing by 2030.

Earlier this week Three UK called on the government to change its policy and use fixed wireless access provided by 5G to get connectivity to rural and other underserved areas faster.

According to Vodafone's report, the £6.3 billion in value to British manufacturing could be achieved by updating manufacturing operations and boosting productivity, particularly in the North West, North East and Midlands of England, and in Wales.

The report, Powering Up Manufacturing, Levelling Up Britain has economic analysis by WPI Economics. Levelling up – bringing the poorer north and Midlands of England closer to the wealth in the South – is one of the Tory party’s aims.

The report calls on the Government to set an ambitious target to become a global leader in the use of 5G technology in manufacturing over the next decade.  It recommends support for manufacturers to invest in 5G private networks and for the government to create 5G test and innovation centres where the benefits would be greatest.

The report claims that:
●     Wirelessly connected factories with bespoke 5G mobile private networks would enable sharing of large quantities of data from thousands of devices simultaneously in real time, to support better, faster decision-making, developing machine learning and adapting processes for maximum productivity.
 
●     Predictive maintenance – monitoring hundreds of variables, forecasting when and where repairs will be needed – avoids expensive, unplanned downtime.
 
●    5G-supported augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology can be used to visualise and plan designs in detail before building physical prototypes. This will help workers maintain and repair failed machinery and can be used to train workers with less hands-on experience of expensive physical machinery.

•     AR/VR can connect workers on a factory floor with engineers and designers elsewhere to access technical expertise without costly, time-consuming site visits.

Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone (pictured) said, “We are only beginning of the 5G journey, but through our work with Ford, we know it offers huge potential for the manufacturing sector and beyond. 

“To realise this potential, we need to all get behind it, from Government and Ofcom creating the right policy and regulatory environment, through to businesses embracing the power of innovation, and of course us as network operators creating this network of the future.”

Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman said, "5G can change the way Britain builds and we’ve sparked a wave of innovation in UK manufacturing through our £200 million 5G trials scheme.

“We’ve seen driverless vehicles at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, VR at BAM Nutall building sites in Scotland and Vodafone boosting laser-welding robots in Essex.

“The benefits of 5G for improving productivity, efficiency and safety in our manufacturing sector and beyond are clear, and Vodafone’s report is a ringing endorsement of how this revolutionary technology can help us build back better from the pandemic."

Smart manufacturing…

The government has announced an additinal £53 million for UK manufacturers to boost competitiveness through digital tech for businesses of all sizes, but does not specifically mention 5G.

This is in addition to the £300 milion announced last September in public and private funding to boost productivity in British manufacturing by 30%, which doesn't mention 5G, and the £8 million announced in February to "boost manufactuers across England to go digital," again with no specific mention of 5G.