UK 5G is hitting the ground running

‘These 5G innovation projects are all focused on delivering a better way of life for businesses and citizens’


Robert Driver, Head of UK5G
By Robert Driver, Head of UK5G

The arrival of coronavirus and lockdown has been no less turbulent for telecoms than for many other industries. Among various activities, we have continued to progress the selection and delivery of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbeds and Trials (5GTT) programme, and to support the more than 1,500 organisations involved in UK5G.

The government announced an update to the telecoms supply chain review recommendations, a challenging regime for telecoms security, with high-risk vendor equipment to be removed from 5G networks by the end of 2027. This will be followed by a bill in the autumn focused on security. This drives us to focus on the nurturing of UK and less-established vendors, as well as openRAN solutions, and presents an opportunity to accelerate innovation in the telecoms space and support a diverse and interoperable supply chain

DCMS and UK5G have been collecting feedback to improve with each iteration of 5GTT and in response to this have established the UK5G Supplier Directory as a first step in simplifying the vendor technology landscape. This is particularly useful as the majority of trials are user and application rather than technology led and so need support to understand what partners they may need in their consortia. The directory is growing and lists suppliers from global giants to specialist small and medium-sized providers, and we invite suppliers not listed yet to participate.

UK becoming a 5G expert against the odds

In contrast the growth of conspiracy theories around 5G has led to significant amounts of abuse for wired and wireless telecoms engineers working to deliver and maintain vital services across the country, with arson attacks on several masts. Ofcom and the DCMS have published a guide explaining how 5G technology is to provide clear and simple information. There remains further work to be done to communicate the benefits of the technology more widely.

But it’s no secret that the UK is now expert in pioneering the uses of 5G technology. 5GTT provides an impressive and growing showcase of transformative use-cases, from supporting disadvantaged citizens in their homes via private 5G networks, driving efficiency, quality and reliability in manufacturing, bringing high-speed mobile connectivity to rural areas, and exploring immersive real-time applications in augmented and virtual reality. These are just a few of the impressive projects celebrated by researchers, engineers, businesses and public sector organisations happening across the whole country, all brought together in projects which are supported and partially funded by the government. 

Real life 5G use cases on the go

This DCMS programme is now accelerating through the £30-million 5G Create funding competition boost. Six projects were announced on June 30, with applications including traffic lights controlled by artificial intelligence, virtual reality for live sports, autonomous trucks at the Nissan factory and cost savings for the RAF’s Tempest fighter. The remaining cohort of 5G Create projects will be revealed later in the autumn following a record number of entries, which proves innovation in this sector is alive and kicking.

It will be fascinating to discover the new use-cases they’ll be exploring and to watch them develop. We are working hard to make sure they can benefit from the lessons learnt by their predecessors and by working with each other to overcome obstacles. The UK has a very impressive and increasing number of transformative 5G projects located across the whole country and covering a wide variety of sectors, from social care to manufacturing. 

These 5G innovation projects are all focused on delivering a better way of life for businesses and citizens, a better way of working, living, commuting, caring and entertaining, which is so important in the unusual times we are living through.


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