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UK Gov Hands £16m to Universities for 2018 Test of 5G Mobile Tech

Friday, July 7th, 2017 (8:03 am) - Score 778
5g uk mobile broadband

The Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has awarded £16 million to three Universities (King’s College London and the Universities of Surrey and Bristol) in order to trial and demo the United Kingdom’s first end-to-end 5G Mobile network in 2018.

The public investment represents the first slice of a 4-year investment programme, which forms part of the Government’s new 5G Testbeds and Trials scheme. The funding comes from the previously allocated £740m in the new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), which is being spent on both the development of 5G and on pushing “full fibre” (FTTH/P) broadband networks into more areas.

Apparently the Universities will aim to collaborate on the creation of 3 “small-scale mobile networks“, which together will form the test network. Each network will have a number of the elements expected in a commercial 5G network, such as mobile signal receivers, transmitters and the technology to handle 5G signals. The end-to-end 5G trial is expected to begin during early 2018.

We wouldn’t be at all surprised if this also linked into Arqiva and Samsung’s joint March 2018 5G trial in London (here), which will use the 28GHz radio spectrum band (possibly some other bands too) in order to setup a 500Mbps+ capable Fixed Wireless Broadband network.

Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital, said:

“We want to be at the head of the field in 5G. This funding will support the pioneering research needed to ensure we can harness the potential of this technology to spark innovation, create new jobs and boost the economy.

We know 5G has the potential to bring more reliable, ultrafast mobile connectivity, with quicker reaction times and larger data capabilities, and I’m thrilled to announce King’s College London and the universities of Surrey and Bristol have agreed to collaborate on this project.”

Rahim Tafazolli, University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre Director, said:

“The University of Surrey’s 5GIC, University of Bristol and King’s College London are delighted to be delivering this initial project as part of the Government’s new 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. This investment will ensure that the UK continues to be world-class in 5G innovation and development through to commercial exploitation.”

However the reality is that the UK probably won’t be “at the head of the field in 5G” because it’s likely that countries in South East Asia, as well as a few other places, will be able to roll-out the new technology before us. On the other hand there’s something to be said for not adopting the first run of new hardware (early kit tends to be big and buggy) and instead getting your money’s worth out of 4G first, which is itself nearing 1Gbps speeds (here).

The official 5G standard is expected to be agreed next year and we already know that it will seek to support a “minimum” peak download speed of 20Gbps (Gigabits per second) and uploads of 10Gbps, with latency times of around 1-4ms (milliseconds). However such speeds will only be possible via very high frequency radio spectrum bands (e.g. 26-28GHz) and those on lower frequency bands should expect slower performance.

Crucially the necessary spectrum (Ofcom’s plan) isn’t expected to be released for commercial deployment until 2020 and it will then take several years for related services to be deployed.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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