On the first anniversary of its Digital Strategy, the UK government announced the winners of a £25 million competition to pave the way for a future rollout of 5G technology in the UK.
From the Orkney Islands, Inverness-shire and Perthshire to the West of England and south Wales, the six projects led by SMEs, universities and local authorities represent the best of UK innovation, resources and expertise.
They will test 5G across a range of applications, including smart farming with drones, using the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) to improve healthcare in the home, increasing manufacturing productivity and maximising the future benefits of self-driving cars.
They are 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.
Lord Duncan, UK Government Minister for Scotland, said: “Putting Scotland at the heart of developing 5G technology is fantastic news as it will help people up and down the country become among the first to feel the benefits of this new generation of world-class digital infrastructure.
“The UK Government is determined to be a global leader in this next wave of mobile technology and these trials – using Scotland’s renowned skills and expertise in this field – will help us take early advantage of the potential of 5G, creating a pioneering digital economy that works for everyone. “
Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “New technology has the potential to transform business and society and we’re determined everywhere in the UK will be prepared for a 5G future.
“These testbeds will show how our rural communities can harness the power of this revolution in connectivity, bringing benefits across agriculture, industry and wider society.”
Each testbed will receive between £2 million and £5 million in UK 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.
5G RuralFirst, led by Cisco and lead partner University of Strathclyde, will deliver testbeds and trials, primarily on the Orkney Islands, to exploit 5G benefits for rural communities and industries like agriculture, broadcasting, and utilities.
5G Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) will look at innovative ways to deliver a range of rural applications such as smart agriculture, tourism and connecting poorly-served communities. It will be spread across Inverness-shire, Perthshire, Monmouthshire, Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
The Digital Strategy launched in March 2017 to continually drive the UK’s connectivity, telecommunications and digital sectors, and invest in industries, infrastructure and skills. Infrastructure is also one of the key foundations of our modern Industrial Strategy, and both seek to create the conditions for the UK’s digital economy to thrive; through overcoming barriers to growth and promoting more high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future.
A year later, there are nearly 60,000 tech businesses in the UK, we remain the number one location for tech investment in Europe and have cemented our position as a leader in some of the most innovative and strategically important digital sectors.
In particular, the UK’s fintech sector is larger than New York’s or the combined fintech workforce of Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Healthtech, accelerated by needs of the NHS, is also now a thriving digital sector in the UK.