UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed to launch in West Midlands

UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed to launch in West Midlands
Birmingham, UK © Balint Földesi

A pilot scheme to provide the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed will launch in the West Midlands region, and pioneer high-speed connectivity technology.

The scheme will embed and test 5G technology in connected hubs in the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, which together comprise the West Midlands region. As the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed, the project will trial new technologies and services, and establish best practice for the wider rollout of 5G internet across the whole of the country.

The announcement was made as part of the Urban Connected Communities Project, part of the UK’s 5G Testbed and Trials Programme, which is part of the country’s broader strategy to pursue faster internet and wider coverage across the UK.

How much funding is available for the project?

Currently, up to £50m is available for the project, including £25m from the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and £25m in match funding from regional partners. An additional £25m may be made available at a later stage, all of which is dependent on the development and approval of a business plan for the project.

The first series of projects to establish the multi-city 5G test bed are expected to launch early next year, and are expected to focus on health, construction and transport. This could include hospital outpatient appointments and emergency consultations being carried out remotely by video link, and connected ambulances, through which paramedics could consult with clinical specialists while attending an incident.

What wider impact does the project aim to have?

The UK’s Minister for Digital, Margot James, said: “5G has the potential to dramatically transform the way we go about our daily lives, and we want the citizens of the UK to be amongst the first to experience all the opportunities and benefits this new technology will bring. The West Midlands Testbed, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, will be instrumental in helping us realise this ambition.”

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