Chair of UK5G Advisory Board
Collaboration as well as fierce competition has always been a defining feature of the mobile phone industry, based on a longstanding use of global common standards. This ensures your phone works when you go abroad. It’s why you can send messages from one network to another and why you don’t need to know where the person is, what phone they are using or what network they are on to call them.
COVID-19 has highlighted the criticality of connectivity to our daily lives, whether work, home or public services and we’ve all had to pull together. No discussion of connectivity in the pandemic would be complete without saying a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the key telecommunications workers across the UK in both fibre and wireless, working in often very difficult circumstances to keep our networks running and expanding.
The UK Government aims to stimulate greater connectivity across the UK to deliver a thriving, more efficient and significantly greener economy. The next key deliverable for UK mobile operators is the Shared Rural Network. This project to close total and partial not-spots is jointly funded by the operators and government and will see the operators working together to build and share new sites. It promises reliable mobile broadband to 95% of the UK by 2025, addressing the digital divide by improving 4G coverage in the areas that need it most.
Collaboration is crucial
As we move to ‘the next normal’, open collaboration will continue to be critical in telecoms as well as many other spheres.
Since 2017, the DCMS 5G Testbeds and Trials programme has been encouraging deeper collaborations between varied organisations, helping to unlock the promise of next generation connectivity. To name a few projects that have successfully completed:
- 5G RuralFirst delivered connectivity to salmon farms, cows and wind farms;
- Worcestershire 5G Consortium boosted reliability and productivity in a large-scale manufacturing plant;
- Liverpool 5G Health & Social Care improved the lives of citizens through a better-connected network and people.
In the meantime, West Midlands 5G is delivering large scale initiatives including smart transport to accelerate the uptake of 5G throughout the region, working through collaborative partnerships with the network operators, transport authorities and councils, hospitals and universities.
Nine new projects across the country, announced in January, are receiving a share of £35 million from DCMS-funded rural and industrial 5G competitions. All these new projects are benefiting from the experience and learnings handed on from the earlier phases of the programme. Common issues between the projects are being defined, and collaboration encouraged.
All eyes are now on the £30 million 5G Create Competition, which closes next month. UK5G has been working with the DCMS promoting this opportunity at first in physical events, and then virtually. The response to this open call has been fantastic and we are looking forward to new projects to be announced later in the year.
These projects are enabling the exploration of new use cases and business models to improve UK productivity, and kick-starting collaborations. And if there is one thing we have learnt over the last few months, it is that we need to work together.
UK5G is the national innovation network dedicated to the promotion of research, collaboration and the industrial application of 5G in the UK.
Nine projects to receive share of £35m