Government to test 5G on UK railways

(Image credit: Pixabay)

The government is inviting technology companies to participate in a trial to see how 5G technology can boost the transport sector and improve communications on the UK’s main railway lines.

The Trans Pennine Initiative (TPI) hopes to identify ways of providing high quality connectivity to passengers using trackside infrastructure while also finding solutions related to access, process and costs.

Participants will be able to deploy trial equipment on the route between Manchester and Leeds without the need to invest in trackside infrastructure and will benefit from financial support in doing so.

Railway 5G

Improving connectivity has been a long-term ambition of the UK, with the government at point touting the use of revenue generated from fines imposed on Network Rail to improve matters. 

Several train operators already offer on-board Wi-Fi, but improving cellular connectivity is challenging because signals tend to bounce off train carriages rather than penetrate them.

They will also be able to demonstrate the viability of their products in a live environment, with a diverse demographic allowing for the testing of capacity, coverage and security. Additionally, they will also be able to test their technology at a new 5G facility in Melton Mowbray.

“The importance of fast, reliable and uninterrupted connectivity on our rail network is only going to increase,” said digital minister Margot James. “Projects like the Trans Pennine Initiative will be instrumental in delivering this for passengers and are all part of our commitment to make the UK a world leader in 5G.”

The project forms part of the government-backed 5G Testbeds and Trials (5GTT) initiative with Network Rail as the lead partner. Other initiatives have received up to £5 million to investigate the use of 5G in various sectors.

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.