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Smart Cities 2021

How 5G is improving urban life

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Paul Wilson

Senior Advisor, UK5G Chair, Smart Cities World

Cities across the UK are using the Government’s 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme to improve their cities.

Launched in 2016, the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme is a nationally coordinated programme of investment in 5G. It is tasked with boosting the UK’s digital infrastructure and one key objective is to maximise the productivity and efficiency benefits to the UK from 5G.

West Midlands 5G is a public sector organisation leading the £21million Urban Connected Communities project focused on improving transport, manufacturing and health and social care across the region via rigorous R&D collaboration with industry.

Working with Ericsson, its 5G mast-as-a-sensor project in Kings Heath, Birmingham, explored if 5G small cells were just as good as traditional roadside counters at monitoring traffic volume and flow. Cloud-native digitised traffic monitoring considerably accelerates data gathering and malleability, opening the prospect of programmable traffic management.

Using 5G for traffic control

In the North West, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and two UK startups won £1.1million of Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) funding for its Smart Junctions 5G project. The aim of the project is to deliver AI traffic control systems to reduce congestion and pollution, as well as improving productivity, by cutting waiting times at traffic signals.

Cities are complex systems-of-systems and home to half of humanity.

Nearby, Liverpool 5G Create is building a private 5G network to benefit community health and social care services in a post-COVID-19 world. “This network will reduce digital poverty for vulnerable people, providing safe, free and accessible connectivity to these services via 5G,” says Joe Spencer, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, University of Liverpool.

Digitally powered logistics

Further South, major logistics hubs are exploring 5G. Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port and the first to introduce 5G technology into its operations. The Bristol Port Company is delivering a 5G logistics trial, focussing on security, traceability, and tracking of goods within and across extendable virtual boundaries – and between public and private networks.

Cities are complex systems-of-systems and home to half of humanity. The urban population is set to rise to three quarters of the 9 billion people expected to be alive by the middle of the century. The resilience of urban critical infrastructure is of growing concern amid climate chaos, investment in the digital management of urban life seems propitious and wise.

All of these positive 5G case studies and more can be found at

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