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West Midlands 5G awards major contract to consortium featuring Digital Catapult

Posted 23 Apr 2020

Despite the slightly eccentric and entirely unfounded health concerns that seem to have surfaced about 5G in recent weeks, I continue to be amazed by the breadth of 5G’s potential industrial applications. Whether it is creating an entirely cable free factory that can be rapidly reconfigured to make different lines, or enabling remote surgery to be carried out with microscopic precision using virtual reality, or allowing experts to maintain complex machinery in hazardous conditions from a safe distance, 5G continues to offer new and exciting business opportunities.

As we start to think about how we recover from the economic impact of Covid-19 and how to help businesses accelerate out of the post virus downturn, the set of technologies which make up 5G has a great contribution to make – if we let it! Digital Catapult has been at the leading edge of 5G technology innovation in the UK since 2014. We believe that although the hardware may be manufactured elsewhere, the opportunities for UK companies to lead in the creation of new applications and services which can run on 5G networks, will give them global reach.

One of the newest initiatives Digital Catapult is involved in is the 5PRING consortium which will bring 5G testbeds to the West Midlands for the first time. 5PRING has been selected by WM5G to provide the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed. There will be three 5G accelerator facilities in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, comprising centrally-located demonstration spaces with access to cutting-edge 5G technology for local businesses. Each venue will have access to private 5G networks – enabling companies and public sector organisations to experiment with 5G features that aren’t yet commercially released.

We hope that the accelerators in the West Midlands will demonstrate the possibilities available to the rest of the UK. At times such as this, when we are all being forced to work far from home, it is heartening to see the UK forging ahead with the adoption of a technology that could provide so many benefits to a population working remotely – from enhanced data volumes combined with low latency that will enable streaming of Ultra HD content for entertainment, to much lower latency on video calls, meaning that meetings can take place just as easily as they can in person.

Throughout our history of work in 5G, we have seen many exciting new products and services arise. We have partnered with many key players such as Ericsson and with local authorities like the Coast to Capital LEP in the South of England. At the 5G Brighton testbed, a group of local companies are using 5G to develop innovative products and services, for example Sceenic who have created an app enabling consumers to watch television live at the same time as chatting with friends in different parts of the world. Meanwhile in Digital Catapult’s 5G London testbed, startups sit alongside major network infrastructure companies in one of the first places in Europe designed specifically for businesses to test, experiment and adopt 5G in conjunction with other advanced digital technologies.

In the West Midlands, the 5PRING project will offer expertise via on-site 5G technologists and experienced innovation managers. We hope to work with over 2,000 businesses in the next five years, helping to transform existing services and create entirely new ones, accelerating the growth of businesses in the region and boosting their global competitiveness. We are keen to talk with potential sponsors for some of the events that will be running at the testbeds in the coming months.

5G has the opportunity to help the UK economy; some analysts suggest the value could reach $27 billion a year. Others like Barclays note that this opportunity could be missed if business leaders don’t accelerate up the 5G learning curve.This is a key place where Digital Catapult is helping. Through WM5G , Digital Catapult will provide the opportunity for businesses to learn from experts and give them hands-on experience with the technology.

I hope that in the coming months and years this region-wide testbed will be seen as playing a pivotal role in driving mainstream industrial adoption of 5G technology. It’s vital, as we emerge from this unprecedented upheaval that we are all experiencing, that we collaborate creatively and across sectors to recover as rapidly as possible from the Covid downturn.

For more information and to register your interest in this project, please head over to the 5SPRING website now here.

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