The different use cases are a part of a £1 billion commitment through the Digital Strategy to keep Britain at the forefront of connectivity by accelerating the deployment of next generation digital infrastructure and driving forward new 5G business opportunities.
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. Each testbed will receive between £2 million and £5 million in government grants, as part of a total investment of £41m from private sector and other public sector funding, to explore new ‘fifth generation’ mobile communications technologies that use high frequency spectrum to deliver internet speeds of over a gigabit per second.”
Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Founder and Director of 5GIC and leader of 5GUK Networks said, “The 5G Innovation Centre is extremely pleased and proud to have been able to play a leading part in in supporting the DCMS UK 5G testbeds and trials programme. 5G represents a fundamental transformation of the role that mobile technology plays in society, delivering rich new services in sectors such as finance, transport, retail and health.”
Six winning projects in the 5G Trials and Testbeds scheme are:
1. 5G RuralFirst: Rural Coverage and Dynamic Spectrum Access Testbed and Trial by Cisco (£4.3 mn)
5G RuralFirst, led by Cisco and lead partner University of Strathclyde, will deliver testbeds and trials to exploit 5G benefits for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities, to address the challenges of and build the business case for 5G rural deployment.
Based primarily on the Orkney Islands, and in the farmlands of Shropshire and Somerset, the project will integrate spectrum sharing strategies for 5G; bringing connectivity to rural communities, enabling smart farming in partnership with Agri-Epi Centre (including drones, autonomous farm vehicles and remote veterinary inspections); innovative methods of delivering broadcast radio over 5G working with the BBC, alongside the delivery of 5G connectivity for IoT in utility and other industries in rural areas.
2. 5G Smart Tourism to West of England Combined Authority (£5.0 mn)
This testbed will focus on delivering enhanced visual experiences for tourists using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology in major attractions in Bath and Bristol, including the Roman Baths and Millennium Square. Content and technology developments will be provided by the BBC and Aardman with support from the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab. It will demonstrate self-provision of 5G and Wi-Fi and innovative mmWave backhaul, and will also address safety issues by providing emergency service capacity through network splicing.
3. Worcestershire 5G Consortium – Testbed and Trials to Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (£4.8 mn)
A team of 5G and Industry 4.0 experts lead this project – working with Worcestershire LEP, the consortium comprises: Worcestershire County Council, 5GIC at University of Surrey, AWTG, Huawei, O2, BT and Malvern Hills Science Park. With local businesses Worcester Bosch and Yamazaki Mazak it will focus on ways to increase industrial productivity through preventative and assisted maintenance using robotics, big data analytics and AR over 5G.
It will also have a cyber security aspect, with QinetiQ providing assurances on the ‘security by design’ of 5G and IoT technology. Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to test 5G capabilities in a new commercial tech accelerator located at the Malvern Hills Science Park.
4. Liverpool 5G Testbed to Sensor City (£3.5 mn)
Sensor City will lead a consortium made up of public sector health suppliers, the NHS, university researchers, local SMEs and a leading UK 5G technology vendor. Funded for one year in the first instance, the project will see high value technologies including low-cost open source 5G networks, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and IoT deployed across deprived communities in the Liverpool City Region test bed. The consortium will use this technology to reduce the digital divide, while measuring the impact on patient monitoring and support, management of loneliness in older adults, aid to independents living in the home and the facilitation of communication between hospitals and the community.
5. AutoAir: 5G Testbed for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles to Airspan Communications (£4.1 mn)
AutoAir will aim to make 5G technologies available for the validation and development of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) at the UK’s premiere vehicle proving ground at Millbrook. Fast travel speeds complicate cell-tower handoff, and autonomous vehicles will require more network bandwidth than is available currently. It will also investigate how these 5G connectivity solutions could be transferable to both road and rail transportation.
The project is based on the accelerated development of 5G small cells operating in both licensed Sub 6 GHz and mmWave bands on a shared ‘neutral host’ platform which allows multiple public and private 5G operators to simultaneously use the same infrastructure using network slicing.
6. 5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) to Quickline Communications (£2.1 mn)
5GRIT will be trialling innovative use of 5G technology across a range of rural applications, such as smart agriculture, tourism and connecting poorly-served communities, using shared spectrum in the TV bands and a mix of local ISPs and self-provision.
The aim is to ultimately make high quality connectivity available across Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Inverness-shire, Perthshire and Monmouthshire. Here the consortium will develop 5G-ready AR apps for tourists and investigate how high-bandwidth wireless connectivity can increase food production in farming, including through use of AR and an unmanned aerial system.