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UK Government Updates on 5G Mobile Rollout Strategy and Trials

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017 (10:34 am) - Score 1,845

The Government has today issued an update on the progress of their 5G strategy, which aims to help foster the UK roll-out of next generation ultrafast Mobile Broadband technology. As part of that they’ve launched a new call for evidence to understand “what makes investing in [full fibre] and 5G attractive.”

Broadly speaking today’s Update to the 5G Strategy doesn’t say anything terribly new and largely summarises all of the existing developments, such as Ofcom’s work to free radio spectrum in the 700MHz, 3.4-3.8 GHz and 26GHz bands (as well as considering whether spectrum in the 66-71GHz bands may be viable) for 5G. The first commercial UK and EU deployments of 5G aren’t expected to get started until around 2020.

On this point the Government said that the “continuing delays to the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz auction, as a result of litigation, are … a source of some concern” (Three UK and EE are currently battling Ofcom) and said that they also wanted to see Ofcom complete the licensing of the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz bands “as soon as possible, and before the end of 2019 at the latest, including the resolution of any legal challenges.”

More recently we’ve seen £25m being put towards the Phase 1 UK 5G trials and testbeds that will start from April 2018 (here), while the Autumn 2017 Budget similarly committed £160 million from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) to help support this (£10m is already being used to setup a facility to test the security of 5G networks and £5m for an initial trial of applications and deployment on roads in 2018).

Apparently the future Phase 2 trials programme activity will include funding for the first large scale projects (e.g. deploying a 5G network along the Trans Pennine rail route). The Government also used the opportunity to reiterate its “ambition” to extend mobile networks to reach 95% geographic coverage of the UK by 2022. By the same date, their other aim is to deliver full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal on all major roads.

Matt Hancock, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G so that we can take early advantage of the benefits that this new technology offers. The steps we are taking now are all part of our commitment to realising the potential of 5G ,and will help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.”

In keeping with that the Government has today launched yet another new Call for Evidence, which aims to understand what makes investing in “full fibre” (FTTP/H) and 5G attractive, and what they could do to support this (seems familiar). The responses will inform the Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which was announced last month as part of the Industrial Strategy (due summer 2018) that set out the need to do more to increase UK productivity etc.

Lest we forget that earlier this year a new 5G Innovation Network was also proposed (here) to operate alongside the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. The Network aims to provide a significant boost to the development of the UK’s 5G ecosystem, such as by encouraging increased inward investment and facilitating the engagement and coordination of organisations working on 5G activities across the UK.

Today we learn that CW, in partnership with the Knowledge Transfer Network and TM Forum, have been successful in their bid to run the Network. This will be up and running during early 2018. Suffice to say that the level of paper work being thrown around for 5G is now approaching a fairly significant level, although it’s too early to say what changes it might foster.

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