5G is undoubtedly the hot topic of the moment with the West Midlands recently being selected to become home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed. The multi million pound trial will pave the way for the future rollout of 5G across the UK, making the region the first in the UK ready to trial new 5G applications and services at scale. Whilst investment is certainly always welcome across the tech industry, there are questions being raised about whether this specific technology is really the right place to start.
Tech experts are increasingly divided over whether 5G wireless technology could bring a new innovation revolution or prove to be just another hype that will disappoint in the end.
And it is indeed important to test the theory as to whether whether British infrastructure is sufficiently future-proofed in order to accommodate these initiatives.
The 4G rollout in Britain left a lot to be desired, with the country sitting 54th in the world for the strongest 4G connectivity (according to The National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Connected Future report) there is still quite a bit of room for Britain to grow as a leader in digital connectivity.
One of the main criticisms of the previous 4G roll out was the lack of blanket coverage across the UK, with London hotspots receiving priority. The NIC report found that around 20 per cent of urban premises and almost 80 per cent of rural premises are in a 4G coverage not-spot, while motorways and railways were also identified as key areas to improve connectivity.
In order for the UK become a global digital leader, we must have a greater ambition to raise the standards of connectivity across the entire country. The government must prioritise investment in areas which have been previously neglected, which in turn will aid the growth of our regional cities and small businesses.
All of this can be achieved with greater collaboration between mobile operators and political stakeholders. The government should carefully consider the issues raised in the 5G manifesto signed last year by key communication services providers Vodafone, BT and Three, and how they can support the commercial roll out. As momentum and consensus builds amongst the industry leaders on which 5G technologies will be widely adopted, the government must quickly respond and make spectrum available to streamline 5G deployment.
The UK still has a chance to deliver on 5G, Smart Cities and the Internet of Things if we learn from our mistakes in the past. Fast reactions, structured initiatives and a committed political force will make our efforts to roll out 5G successful.
It is essential that the UK does not fall behind on establishing great connectivity if we wish to continue competing on the world stage. According to Gartner, 1.6 billion connected devices were expected to be used by smart cities in 2016, gathering and sharing data from their intelligent buildings, roads, and power grids to provide the insight needed to improve the city’s overall environment and efficiency. And that number is predicted to double in 2017, reaching an incredible 20.8 billion by 2020.
More than a third of the connected devices used in smart cities now and in the coming year are expected to be business-related: including among other things the connected light bulbs, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and building management systems that together make up smart buildings.
If we are to have a truly smart UK, we must have the infrastructure capable of supporting the speed, latency and bandwidth demands of billions of connected devices and sensors, and laying the connectivity foundations of smart cities now and in years to come.
With a strong foundation of connected building infrastructure, it will be entirely possible to reap the rewards of the internet of things, 5G and truly smart infrastructure alike.
WiredScore is delighted to have digital expert David Maclean Chair WMCA Digital Board join us for our Birmingham launch event on the 27 September. The West Midlands has recently been selected to become home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed, making the region the first in the UK ready to trial new 5G applications and services at scale.
To learn more about what is required for successful 5G roll out and discover Birmingham's leaders in digital connectivity, register for our free event. Don't miss out!