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Government Hopes £16m University 5G Network Will Make UK A World Leader

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Government ups commitment to 5G development with academic testbed targeting a 2018 end to end trial

Three major universities are to build a £16 million 5G test network, backed by the newly renamed Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Kings College London, The University of Bristol and the University of Surrey will combine their respective strengths and academic and commercial expertise with a view to a full end to end test in 2018.

The government has made 5G a priority with the hope it the applications dependent on next generation networks will empower British businesses and make the UK a world leader in development. Indeed, a new centre of 5G expertise has been created within DCMS.

5G - Shutterstock © glossyplastic

UK 5G network

The creation of the network is the first phase in a four year programme of investment from the government, which says more funding will be available for industry, academic institutions and local authorities in the coming years.

“We want to be at the head of the field in 5G,” said Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock. “This funding will support the pioneering research needed to ensure we can harness the potential of this technology to spark innovation, create new jobs and boost the economy.

“We know 5G has the potential to bring more reliable, ultrafast mobile connectivity, with quicker reaction times and larger data capabilities.”

The three universities involved will essentially create three small scale mobile networks which have a number of the elements that will comprise a commercial network. This includes transceivers, transmitters and the technology that handles the 5G signals.

The project lead will be Rahim Tafazolli, the director of the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey.

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“The University of Surrey’s 5GIC, University of Bristol and King’s College London are delighted to be delivering this initial project as part of the Government’s new 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme,” he said. “This investment will ensure that the UK continues to be world-class in 5G innovation and development through to commercial exploitation.

“This exciting programme builds on significant investment and a strong foundation of 5G research and development across the three institutions. The programme will maintain and extend the UK’s leadership position in the race to transform many aspects of everyday life and business through digital transformation.”

It is expected that the first commercial 5G networks will go live in 2020 and although there is some debate as to how the final standard will turn out, it is widely expected they will offer significant upgrades on speed, capacity and latency.

Quiz: What do you know about 4G?