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5G Brighton testbed leads the way for UK national rollout

Posted 25 Jul 2017

Future competitiveness in the Coast to Capital area is tightly linked to the digital economy. To make sure that businesses across the region thrive rather than survive, Digital catapult has set up a 5G testbed in Brighton. The testbed is designed to create an ecosystem that allows local startups and scaleups to engage with the new technology and test its capabilities prior to nationwide rollout which is expected to be 2020.

Bigger, better and faster is an ideal we all subscribe to. The future is about digitalisation of all our economic activities, and with the corresponding increase in data volumes and rates there will be a greater demand for fast, reliable and flexible mobile network services. To address that demand, relevant business sectors will want to be first in line to provide next-generation applications and services.

The stumbling block is that today’s 4G infrastructure is not geared to keep pace with the size and complexity of those demands across all vertical markets. 4G can’t support data-heavy technologies such as driverless cars, frustrates consumers who consistently experience download latency or lag, and is limited in its ability to deliver transformational products and services that will positively impact on the profitability of an enormous range of industries*. Government and industry is looking for a rapid resolution to these limitations. But what’s the solution and how quickly can it be delivered?

Enter 5G. With the ability to deliver download speeds of 10Gbps (according to Nokia) and in some cases significantly higher when it launches in 2020* and the provision of an environment that allows businesses to run more complex mobile internet apps, 5G will be at the forefront of a globally mobile and connected Digital Society.

Talk is one thing, delivery is another

That said, no one actually knows how fast 5G will be because technically it doesn’t exist yet. So until such stage as these mobile networks become a reality, their technological capabilities will remain as an estimate for now. That represents a potential problem as businesses require something more concrete predictions to hang their digital caps on.

So how does government and those businesses who stand to financially benefit from 5G’s rollout ensure that what’s promised will actually come to fruition? By testing, testing and testing again.

This will ensure that 5G really delivers and that the rollout happens sooner and in a more advanced state than other European and global 5G initiatives, Digital Catapult has taken the lead in developing a 5G testbed in Brighton. Working in conjunction with its partners that include the local Digital Catapult Centre and the University of Brighton, the 5G testbed will lay the foundation for UK businesses to develop a new level of B2B digital innovation and deliver it in the most cost-effective way.

Funding for this key initiative has come by way of a £1.2 million Government grant which is intended to create an ecosystem where startups and scaleups can engage with this new 5G mobile network technology and its advanced capabilities in a controlled environment. Digital Catapult has committed further investment to increase startup and scaleup engagement.

With 5G it’s no longer business as usual

This advanced technology will allow companies of all sizes to develop and deliver advanced digital products and services that will address the evolving needs of their customers. To help turn that dream into a reality, the Brighton model brings solutions from an advanced R&D activity and testbed into an early real world deployment.

Digital Catapult sees this an innovative approach as compared to other global 5G development activities as we have chosen to work directly with local innovative businesses, and the wider 5G UK ecosystem to develop a mutual understanding of what the technology can do, and what participating businesses can do with it. This includes key areas such as:

  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Internet of Things and connected devices
  • Sports and music event experiences
  • Customer engagement in retail
  • Cloud services, network slicing and software virtualisation

To provide a taste of what’s happening and what’s to come, Digital Catapult is running a series of workshops in conjunction with Digital Catapult Centre Brighton, the first of which takes place on 27th July 2017. The events are aimed at introducing the business benefits of 5G and creating a roundtable discussion about its merits. Make sure you attend by registering here.

For more information on how Digital Catapult is helping drive the testing and adoption of 5G, including how your business can become involved, please contact the lead of the 5G Brighton project, Dr Dritan Kaleshi (Lead Technologist – Future Networks and 5G Fellow at the Digital Catapult) at [email protected]

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*Trusted reviews: 5G vs 4G and the future of UK mobile networks explained