Significant commercial investment, addressing mobile connectivity challenges and focusing on existing strengths were identified in a government strategy report as some of the key requirements for the UK to emerge as a global 5G leader.
The 5G strategy update released by the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) outlined some of the work being performed by the UK government ahead of a potential 2020 rollout, which includes developing a policy framework to support necessary commercial investment in 5G and the development of a test network for future trials.
In the update, which comes almost nine months after the UK’s 5G strategy was unveiled in March, the government said the “path to 5G is becoming clearer” and its “understanding of the issues and challenges has increased”.
MP Matt Hancock said a key component of the strategy was to ensure “reliable connectivity across the UK” through 5G.
Notably, mobile coverage in the UK was in the spotlight this week after the head of UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), Lord Adonis, called for action by regulator Ofcom and the government to address poor mobile coverage in the country.
To potentially avoid problems the country is currently facing, the government plans to extend mobile coverage to 95 per cent of the UK geography, and ensure that mainline rail lines, major road routes and connectivity hotspots are 5G-ready.
The government added it had “taken on board the recommendations of the NIC” and is taking an active role to “ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel, and our roads, railways and city centres must be 5G-ready as quickly as possible”.
Disruptive use cases
The report stated the commercial rollout of 5G should begin by 2020, with “competition likely to drive the mobile market to initially provide mobile broadband services”.
“The path of commercialisation of 5G use cases which rely on other capabilities – particularly those which could be more disruptive – is less clear,” it added.
Through its 5G Testbeds and Trials programme, the government said it is working in partnership with industry and others to “help demonstrate the market for 5G services and improve the commercial case for investment”.
Phase 1 of the programme saw the government launch a £25 million competition in October to fund a series of tests to identify new revenue streams and business models. They are due to be delivered between April 2018 and April 2019.
The second phase, announced in the report, will include funding for projects supporting development of new 5G applications and services, and larger projects which can develop strategic partnerships.
The government also called for views on the scale and scope of pilots under which “5G can be deployed in a timely way and help foster the development of 5G in the UK”, along with feedback on the amount of funding contribution for the projects.
Another key initiative is the UK 5G Innovation Network, which will operate alongside the Testbed and Trials programme.
This is designed to help engagement and coordination of organisations working on 5G activities across the UK, enhancing links between ongoing research and development across telecoms and other sectors.
Providing an update, the government announced Cambridge Wireless, in partnership with the Knowledge Transfer Network and TM Forum, had won a bid to the run the network, which will launch during early 2018.
The government added it had begun engaging with other countries and international organisations to help shape the global development of 5G “in a way that maximises the benefits to the UK.
It added it understood that “unlike previous standards, 5G could be deployed on multiple continents in different scenarios” and the UK could yet compete for global leadership in certain areas.
“The government believes the UK could be a global leader if we focus on our existing strengths – such as in systems integration and cyber security – and on providing a supportive environment for a 5G ecosystem to flourish”.