The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has announced a £150 million investment aimed at delivering standalone 5G to all populated areas of the UK by 2030.
The pledge is part of a new Wireless Infrastructure Strategy that includes working with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to encourage public sector adoption of the technology, support for local authorities and regions and providing 5G or equivalent wireless in new hospitals.
Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Our Wireless Infrastructure Strategy sets out our plan to ensure everyone, no matter where they live, can reap the benefits of improved connectivity. We are doing this by ensuring all populated areas in the UK will be served by what I call ‘5G-plus’ technology by 2030. We are also committing £8 million to provide satellite connectivity for our most remote communities so that no one is left behind.
“We are also supporting long term economic growth in the UK with a £40 million fund to encourage innovative 5G investment across the private and public sector. This will help industries transform at a time when the ways we communicate, work and do business are on the precipice of significant evolution.”
The strategy conveys an ambition to develop standalone 5G – which utilises a 5G network core rather than connecting a 4G core as with the common non-standalone model – saying this will enable ultra-reliable, low latency communications and large numbers of internet of things connections.
It includes an emphasis on the benefits of 5G for public services through supporting schools and hospitals and the developing of smart places.
Among the measures for the public sector are the provision of up to £40 million for local authorities and regions across the UK to establish themselves as ‘5G innovation regions’, encouraging investment in and the scaled adoption of the technology by public services and business.
Local authorities will also be encouraged to employ digital champions to lead on their own infrastructure strategies, and to aggregate demand for advanced wireless connectivity.
These are accompanied by DSIT working with CCS on bringing together large public sector customers of wireless connectivity services to identify future needs, with a view to articulating and aggregating demand for 5G. It said this will enable departments and the Cabinet Office to develop a strategy for public procurement of advanced wireless technology by autumn of this year.
Innovation for hospitals
The move to ensure new hospitals are equipped with 5G or other advanced wireless networks is aimed at supporting “facilities that are on the cutting edge of modern technology and digital innovation”.
In addition, The Government Office for Science will continued working with key departments to understand how 5G can support the delivery of government objectives and improve public services.
Other key elements of the strategy include encouraging investment by 5G providers through steps such as ensuring net neutrality rules are fit for purpose, communications regulator Ofcom ensuring spectrum fees and governance work effectively, the provision of £100 million for relevant research and development. There will be no ‘magic number’ for the number of mobile operators and that all decisions on consolidation will be for the Competition and Markets Authority.
DSIT said that 77% of the population already has access to basic 5G from at least one provider.
The strategy also expresses an ambition to develop 6G mobile connectivity with a £100 million investment into early stage research and efforts to influence the setting of international standards.