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DCMS launches 5G ‘testbeds and trials’ competition



Department makes £25 million available to support work on developing the technology – with public authorities eligible to take part

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced a £25 million competition for testbeds and trials of 5G technology.

It provides the potential for public sector organisations to team up with private sector and academic bodies to take part in the process, under which DCMS will allocate match funded grants of up to £5 million to support the future roll out of 5G networks.

The first phase will be focused on developing the UK’s “5G ecosystem” by developing new applications and services, exploring new business models around the technology, looking at potential benefits and reducing the commercial risks in investment.

Details of future rounds will be made available as the programme develops, although DCMS said it is likely that future funding will include large projects running over years in line with the Government’s strategic priorities.

The eligibility criteria says that projects have to come from UK registered organisations, be carried out inside the country and involve working in collaboration with others. The grant funded element of the project has to be delivered by the end of March next year – although exceptions could be made for larger scale projects if the team contacts DCMS before submitting an application.

In addition, any proposals have to combine both testbeds and trials, and if suitable the testbeds should be made available to other organisations for further use.

£1 billion programme

This has followed the announcement in last year’s Autumn Statement that the Government would support a nationally coordinated programme as part of a £1 billion investment in the national digital infrastructure. A report by the Future Connectivity Challenge Group has suggested that building a strong position in 5G could add £173 billion to the UK economy between 2020-30.

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: “To stay competitive we must be at the cutting edge of new technology and we are determined to be one of the first countries in the world to use 5G. In these very early stages we want all ideas, from all parts of the country, that will help us get the technology and the roll out right to have a nationwide network of 5G innovators.”

This follows an announcement in July that DCMS is providing £16 million to three universities to develop a test network for 5G.

The Government has previously highlighted the role of public authorities in the roll out of 5G. Its Spring Budget announcement included a statement that the public sector can become a major driver of 5G services through its joint purchasing power, and in making its assets available to support the installation of the necessary infrastructure.

Some public organisations have already made plans to contribute to the technology’s development. Leeds City Council has revealed plans for a series of public service pilots, and Basingstoke and Deane District Council has teamed up with the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre to create a testbed for start-ups and small businesses.



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