The UK Government has today committed a further £40m from their 5G Testbeds and Trials (5GTT) programme to support another round of projects, which will help to show how the ultrafast mobile broadband tech could support work in the “logistics and manufacturing sectors.” They also want to simplify the planning process to help rollouts.
The first commercial rollouts of 5G technology from major mobile operators has only just begun (i.e. EE just went live, while Vodafone will follow next month, with O2 and Three UK to follow a little later), although initial hardware support is limited and large-scale deployments won’t truly get going until Ofcom has released more radio spectrum by the end of 2020 (e.g. 3.6GHz+, 700MHz etc.).
Meanwhile the Government’s 5GTT programme has been busy testing various other applications for the new infrastructure (here, here and here), which have ranged from using the technology to support BBC radio to harnessing it for rural wireless broadband connectivity and also data links in autonomous vehicles. Admittedly not all of these have worked out as planned (here) but they have been broadly useful.
By comparison this latest round of projects will trial ways to help the logistics and manufacturing sectors to increase their productivity and output, which could in turn boost the UK economy. The trials are expected to cover different manufacturing processes as well as across road, air, and sea based freight logistics.
Jeremy Wright MP, Digital Secretary, said:
“As part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we’re making sure that Britain has a telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future.
5G is about more than mobile phone consumers having a fast and reliable connection anywhere in the country. It’s a vital piece of technology that can be used to improve the productivity and growth of our industrial sectors. That’s why we’re excited to develop new trials in areas such as manufacturing and logistics that can really benefit from 5G.”
On top of this the Government has confirmed that it will consult on proposals to simplify planning processes in England so as to both support the further roll-out of 4G and aid the faster introduction of 5G, although they haven’t yet detailed how this will be achieved. Nevertheless it is known that operators often run into issues when seeking planning permission for new masts (e.g. objections by locals) but tackling such things is rarely easy (nobody wants to create a public backlash).
Last year’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) made a number of proposals to support mobile coverage (e.g. reviewing the recently revised Electronic Communications Code (EEC), changing planning regulations and opening Government infrastructure up for use by operators etc.).
Hamish MacLeod, Director of Mobile UK, said:
“Getting the planning system right for future 5G and today’s 4G networks is critical to ensure the UK continues to lead the world in digital connectivity. It is right that the Government has announced it is to look at simplifying planning processes and we stand ready to work in partnership to ensure this can happen as quickly as possible to aid the continued rollout of mobile networks.”
A public competition will launch “later this year” in the hope of attracting bids for the latest round of UK 5G trials, although it’s less clear when the new planning consultation will begin.