Insights Government to create “5G city” in trial of new high speed connectivity to pave the way for future rollout of 5G across UK


The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says that the Urban Connected Communities Project, a key part of the Industrial Strategy and the next step in the Government’s 5G Testbed and Trials Programme, will develop a large-scale, citywide testbed for wireless 5G infrastructure.

This will include testing how new technology can make urban communities inherently safer, greener, more efficient and more attractive places to live. It is expected that the winning bid will be trialling a variety of initiatives, which could include:

  • doctors and other health care professionals using real-time video consultation and remote treatment for those less able to travel;
  • making traffic jams and disjointed journeys a thing of the past through widespread use of sensors and real-time monitoring and management of traffic and public transport;
  • revolutionising the way visitors experience tourist venues through the use of augmented and virtual reality technologies; and
  • maintenance of manufacturing assembly lines through use of robotics and augmented reality to enable millions of measurements per second to be taken to predict when parts need replacing or rerouting to improve productivity.

The DCMS says that funding for the project will come from the £200 million assigned so far to develop 5G technologies as part of over £1 billion investment in next-generation digital infrastructure, including through the £31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF).

The DCMS is now seeking expressions of interest from local or combined authorities with a coverage area in the region of 500,000 people to be the public sector partner and lead the delivery of the project. Interest from large cities below 500,000 in population but with very strong, clear digital leadership and vision will also be considered.

As well as enhancing connectivity for residents and businesses the urban testbed will trial 5G applications across multiple sectors including public services, industry, transport, healthcare, media and entertainment, and allow different deployment models to be explored.

The project will specifically target “pinch-points” of poor connectivity in cities, including areas of high demand such as mainline stations or city centres where heavy usage (rather than a lack of signal) leads to not-spots.

The 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme forms part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, aimed at continually driving the UK’s connectivity, telecommunications and digital sectors, and investing in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future.

The Government says that NPIF is designed to bolster UK productivity, which is crucial to raising living standards. Through the NPIF, the Government is investing in the vital infrastructure needed to make it easier for people to connect with others, and work remotely and flexibly.

Following a competitive process, the Government expects to select a location in summer 2018. The urban project will be followed in the summer by a large-scale Rural Connected Communities Project. To read the DCMS press release in full, click here.