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Future Cities Catapult plans 5G consortium for councils

06/11/18

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Future Cities Catapult (FCC) has taken the first steps towards setting up a consortium of local authorities looking to develop the capabilities of 5G networks in their areas.

Digital icons against tall building

It has called for expressions of interest and said it intends to invest up to £500,000 of resources in kind, bringing the results of two years of research into the potential application of 5G in local services.

It said this would provide councils with the support they need for a fraction of the normal cost.

FCC – the Government backed body that supports the development of smart places technology –indicated that the consortium would focus on how councils could generate new streams of revenue from leasing public infrastructure assets and related data through connectivity- or site-as-a-service propositions, and promote their local economies by attracting firms seeking access to an advanced digital infrastructure.

It also wants to help cultivate innovation in local services for a ‘hyperconnected’ world.

An outline of the plan for the consortium says the initial arrangement would be for one year with a review point after six months.

Resource platform

The move would involve the creation of an online resource platform, including existing and future assets, to support financial modelling, the development of business models for commercialisation, governance models for the infrastructure and services and an implementation road map.

FCC also plans to provide access to thematic and specialist networks – which will be created in line with what consortium members require – access to expert resources, events and study visits, and coordination and logistical support.

Authorities would have to provide £25,000 for the first year, with a further amount to be agreed at the review point, and be willing to share their knowledge and assets.

“Plenty of local authorities are already looking at how to take advantage of digital connectivity in their places, but the sharing of (expensive) advice and (hard won) learning between authorities is limited,” FCC said.

“With limited central government support, local governments can make considerable progress by working together to develop the knowledge and secure the expert support needed to harness the benefits of next generation digital infrastructure.”

Funding awards

Efforts to harness 5G for public services were recently boosted by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s award of £25 million to the West Midlands Combined authority to provide a testbed for uses of the technology. The authority indicated that its priorities would include healthcare applications.

Worcestershire County Council has also won a share of the funding to focus on ways to increase industrial productivity through preventative and assisted maintenance using robotics, big data analytics and augmented reality over 5G.

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