The team behind a project in Liverpool to use 5G technology in health and social care is now looking for other public services that could use the local network is has deployed.
Rosemary Kay, project director of Liverpool 5G Create, said this reflects the need to justify wider investment with a “stackable business case” for “stackable use cases”.
She was speaking at Friday’s session of the UKAuthority Integrating Digital Health and Care conference, with an update on the project that was launched in 2020 as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) 5G Create programme.
It has involved the installation of a private street level 5G network – consisting of 57 small cells and claimed to be in the largest in Europe – in the Kensington area of Liverpool, providing free connectivity and the distribution of wearable technology and devices to residents in need of support.
It has also been used by GP surgeries and made available to support children in homes previously without connectivity in their schoolwork.
Kay said the project has proved the technology can be used successfully for the purposes, with substantial cost savings per user for functions such as remote medication management, falls monitoring and measures to deal with loneliness. Cost modelling has projected that, working across Liverpool, a network could save £44 million over eight years in connectivity costs to support telehealth, telecare and mobile working.
She added that the costs of equipment for future use should be reduced as more of it comes to the market.
“So we’ve shown we can reduce the revenue cost of services and have an impact for citizens,” she said. “But the big thing that came out, not just from our trial but some of the other DCMS projects, is that no one use case will justify the spend for a private network; it’s a case of stackable use cases.
“It’s not just social care, but adding education as we already have, and housing, smart cities, transport and other applications that can use a private network. And what we found taking that a little further is that the more difficult part is that to have stackable use cases you really need a stackable business case.”
Kay said this is a major challenge on which the Liverpool 5G Create team is still working and encouraging organisations in other public services to look at potential uses of the network, with a strong emphasis on social value.
“That’s where we are at the moment,” she said. “The network is still up and running, we’re looking at new applications to build on it, and we’re looking across lots of public sector bodies that could make use of a private network.”