5G multi-city testbed and Vodafone trials in spotlight

4 September 2018

5G city

The Government’s 5G Testbed and Trials Programme could award up to £50 million to the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to develop a multi-city 5G test bed, described by Digital Minister Margot James as “the first of its kind anywhere in the world”. Vodafone UK and some overseas triallists might well beg to differ

WMCA will work with the 5G Testbeds and Trials Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and industry partners to formalise its business case for final approval. It is expected that WMCA will start to run pilots and installations early in 2019.

West Midland’s test bed in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton

The West Midland’s test bed is also designed to prepare the ground for commercial deployment of 5G, with hubs in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton. Initially, up to £25 million of the funding will come from the DCMS, with the amount matched by investment from local partners. DCMS could award a further £25 million as the project progresses. WMCA’s proposed schemes are:

  • Patients’ hospital appointments and emergency consultations via high speed video links. Patients don’t have to travel and they can replay and share the session with family or carers to shape their care.
  • By connecting ambulances, paramedics attending an accident can access specialist advice at the scene to improve patients’ outcomes by talking to consultants and specialists via a video link. Streaming video could also be used to monitor the patient en route to hospital to advise paramedics about any actions they need to take and enable hospital staff to provide the right care for the patient as soon as they arrive.
  • Perhaps somewhat more controversially, another proposal is to stream real-time CCTV from buses so that the authorities can react swiftly to anti-social behaviour. Surveillance capabilities could be extended affordably by using smart cameras and artificial intelligence to flag incidents and improve public safety.
  • WMCA will work with Jaguar Land Rover to test autonomous cars in ‘real world’ situations.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said, “This announcement is game-changing for the West Midlands economy. This will be the backbone of our future economy and society.

We have been working to put the foundations in place to grow the industries which will create the jobs of the future, particularly around driverless vehicles and life sciences where we have a genuine advantage. To deliver the future of these industries we need the power of 5G.”

Vodafone 5G trials in Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

In the meantime, between October and December this year, Vodafone will begin trials in seven cities including in Birmingham in the Midlands, plus Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

The mobile operator will test applications, including virtual and augmented reality in factories, hospitals and offices to lay the groundwork for a commercial 5G network at more than 40 sites in these cities. The operator started the national rollout of Massive MIMO in July 2018.

Useful read: How fast is 5G?

Technical writer

Annie Turner has been researching and writing about telecoms and related areas since the 1980s. As well as 5G, she writes about smart cities, IoT, platform business models, regulation, customer experience, data analytics and other stuff – both as a journalist and in corporate white papers.

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