The UK is set to take a major step forward in the development of 5G networks following the release of new research funding by the government today.
Tests of the next-generation networks are set to begin as early as 2018, spearheaded by three UK universities which have been at the forefront of telecoms research in the past.
Kings College London and the Universities of Surrey and Bristol will be the beneficiaries of the funding, which was originally revealed during Chancellor Philip Hammond's spring budget, and is the first part of a four-year programme of investment and collaboration in the Government’s new 5G Testbeds and Trials programme.
Government predictions estimate that 5G networks could ad up to £173bn to the UK economy by 2020.
"We want to be at the head of the field in 5G," Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said. 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, and I’m thrilled to announce King’s College London and the universities of Surrey and Bristol have agreed to collaborate on this project."
The funding will support a collaborative project between the three universities, which will look to work together to create three small-scale mobile networks which together will form a wider test network that should contain many of the elements excepted in a commercial 5G network.
it is hoped that the network will be able to carry out a full 5G end-to-end trial by early 2018, which could involve sending a mobile signal from a mobile device to a data centre and back again, showing that the technology can operate in a real-world environment.
"This exciting programme builds on significant investment and a strong foundation of 5G research and development across the three institutions," Rahim Tafazolli, University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre director and lead of the new project, said.
"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."