'First ever' UK 5G report paints rosy picture

(Image credit: O2)

A report claiming to be the first ever in-depth, impartial evidence-based investigation into the UK 5G ecosystem has painted a positive picture of the country’s efforts to become a leader in next generation networks.

Digital Catapult, which was commissioned by the government’s innovation agency Innovate UK to produce the report, said the UK landscape was “active and growing rapidly” thanks to strong participation from the public and private sectors as well as academia.

The UK hopes its research and startup communities will allow it to take a centre stage role in 5G development, and the government has expressed its desire to ensure this is the case. Digital Catapult’s report is intended to promote this ambition, by giving all stakeholders a greater understanding of what needs to be done.

UK 5G report

It claims there are 39 academic institutions, 29 local authorities and 57 companies taking part in more than 500 5G activities, evidence of the ecosystem at work. Adding strength to these projects is that various research efforts are ‘interconnected’, with parties working together in several areas.

‘’The vision of 5G is much wider than an evolution of mobile broadband networks,” said Dritan Kaleshi, 5G Lead Technologist, Digital Catapult. “This research shows that there are huge opportunities for 5G to unlock major economic and societal benefits in the UK.

“With so much 5G activity, there is an excellent backdrop for innovative startups and scaleups to explore how 5G can be utilised and start to experiment in building the products, services and immersive experiences of the future.”

It is widely expected that the first 5G networks will go live in 2019, however these will be in the US, South Korea, Japan or China. 5G in the UK will most likely arrive in 2020, with all four operators at various stages of progress.

Only EE has gone on record to say it wants to be first in the UK to launch 5G, but all are in agreement that spectrum availability, access to dark fibre and a favourable planning and regulatory environment are key to ensuring there is no delay with 5G as there was with 4G.

The race to 5G is a serious business, with the leadership in 4G estimated to have delivered $100m in economic benefit to the US. Europe’s failure to maintain this leadership led to a contraction in their mobile sectors and there is concern that the continent will fall further behind due to market fragmentation, increasingly strict regulation and an ongoing focus on 4G.

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.