The department is to award match-funded grants of up to £5m each, starting with projects that can foster Britain’s ‘5G ecosystem’
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced a fund worth £25 million aimed at boosting the UK’s 5G wireless sector.
The 5G Testbeds and Trials fund, taken from the government’s £740m National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), is to award match-funded grants of up to £5m each.
£1bn digital investment
The fund’s launch follows the announcement in last year’s Autumn Statement that the government would invest £1bn into the country’s digital infrastructure.
A report by the government’s Future Connectivity Challenge Group has found that building a strong national position in 5G could add £173bn to the British economy from 2020-30.
While it remains at the planning stage, 5G is seen as supporting a higher density of mobile broadband usage, improving reliability and allowing machine-to-machine communications to foster the growth of the ‘Internet of Things’, amongst other features.
DCMS said the first funding round is to focus on the UK’s “5G ecosystem”, with proposals sought for new applications and services, new business models, developing potential benefits or reducing the commercial risks in 5G investment.
Future rounds are likely to include large projects running over several years, DCMS said.
‘We must be at the cutting edge’
Projects must come from organisations registered in the UK and they must be carried out within the country and involve collaboration with other organisations. Proposals should include both testbeds and trials, with the aim of making the testbeds available to other organisations if possible.
DCMS said the grants are to be awarded by the end of March 2018, but exceptions could be made for larger-scale projects.
“We must be at the cutting edge of new technology and we are determined to be one of the first countries in the world to use 5G,” said minister for digital Matt Hancock. “In these very early stages, we want all ideas from all parts of the country that will help us get the technology and the roll-out right to have a nationwide network of 5G innovators.”
Andrew Jones, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said the aim of improving productivity through 5G development required “targeted and sustained investment”.
“Today’s announcement is a big step forward in bringing 5G to the UK and ensuring our digital infrastructure is fit for the future,” he said.
In July DCMS said it had awarded £16m to three universities for the development of a 5G test network.
In the Spring Budget announcement the government said the public sector could help drive 5G usage through its joint purchasing power and by making assets available to support the development of infrastructure.
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