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Government Hints at Future UK 5G Mobile Testbeds and Trials

Thursday, September 13th, 2018 (8:22 am) - Score 820
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The UK Government has this week posted a brief update on their £200m national 5G Testbeds and Trials (5GTT) programme, which summarises all of their existing projects to test the future ultrafast wireless broadband technology and also hints at their plans for the next 12 months.

The first commercial deployments of 5G Mobile and Fixed Wireless technology, which with the right radio spectrum is capable of achieving multi-Gigabit broadband speeds, are expected to get underway toward the end of 2019 via EE (most likely using the 3.4 – 3.5GHz bands). But initial hardware support will be very limited and large-scale deployments won’t start until Ofcom has released more spectrum by 2020 (e.g. 3.6GHz+, 700MHz etc.).

Meanwhile the Government’s 5GTT programme has been busy testing various applications for the new infrastructure. So far around £16m from the budget has already been invested to setup one of the first end-to-end 5G network’s via 5GUK (here), which was completed earlier this year.

Since then they’ve also allocated a further £25m to six other trials across the UK (here) and recently began a £35m project to deploy the service on the Trans Pennine rail route between Manchester and York in England (here). The funding for the latter actually comes from a different source as it’s a joint effort between the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme, 5GTT and Network Rail (NR).

Elsewhere they’ve allocated £5m to consider business models for using 5G connectivity on the UK’s roads (currently still in the design phase), £10m to help test or prove the security of future 5G networks and last week splurged another £25m to support the country’s first “large-scale” multi-city 5G deployment in the West Midlands via the Urban Connected Communities project (here).

Future 5G Testbeds and Trials

The new update reveals that the Government will shortly begin piecing together their plans for a 5G centric Rural Connected Communities (RCC) project, which they state will “promote demand for services from consumers, enterprises and the public sector in rural areas and will also explore how ”neutral host” infrastructure sharing and spectrum sharing can be used to improve the incentives to invest.”

A further £25m has separately been allocated to a future round of 5G trials, which will have a “primary focus on specific vertical industry sectors.” Further details below.

5G Sector Testbed and Trials Projects

These projects will be explored in the Autumn of 2018, with activities expected to commence in 2019. We expect industry organisations to partner with the telecoms industry, the public sector, and academic and research organisations to build the facilities for the trialing of applications, services and products that will develop the 5G ecosystem in those chosen sectors.

We envisage that these projects will focus on the manufacturing and logistics sectors, though we will also consider proposals from other sectors. Trials involving other sectors, such as health and social care, could also form part of the Urban and Rural Connected Communities projects.

The 5GTT programme is also said to be “considering options” for additional future interventions that may comprise a “series of smaller scale funding opportunities to cover a broader range of activities,” although we don’t expect to hear more about this until early 2019. Meanwhile we should find out more details about the next batch of 5G trials sometime later this autumn 2018.

We welcome all of this extra work to help build new applications and networks for 5G, although we can’t help but think that a lot of the services being tested could just as easily have been delivered via existing 4G or Fixed Wireless Broadband technologies.

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

    I do wonder whether this use of public money is effective.
    The 5G technologies in the main are driven from outside the UK (standards, chip sets, volume production etc) and other countries will be further ahead with than us in deployment. In addition our major UK providers are already testing their own wares. So unless this public money results in patentable innovations surely much of this would be reinventing the wheel.
    For instance developing a low cost 5G based M2M/IoT interface for embedding in devices (that could be patented and exploited) would be a more tangible goal.

  2. Chris P

    Meanwhile Verizon in the us will launch domestic fixed unlimited 5g access starting October 1st 2018. Speeds upto ~300mbs and only select markets (a bit like Virgin Media over here)

    Hopefully 5g will quell the constant call for fibre, seems pointless to put all that effort in getting a premium cable to people’s homes who then plug some crappy cheap as possible freebie WiFi router into it and then are unable to attain the speeds they pay for.

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