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Government reveals £25m prize fund for UK 5G

(Image credit: AT&T)

The government is looking to further UK's 5G leadership with a new £25m prize fund for testbeds of the technology.

Six projects are set to receive grants of up to £5 million to investigate the potential for 5G to transform a range of sectors, including healthcare, agriculture and tourism.

The winners of the £25 million competition are scattered across the UK and will see public and private sector organisations working together.

The government sees the scheme as part of its Digital strategy, which aims to develop the UK’s digital industries, infrastructure and skills by eliminating barriers to growth and creating more high-skilled jobs.

Unlocking 5G

It claims there are now 60,000 technology firms in the UK and that the country is the number one location for investment in Europe.

“The ground-breaking projects announced today will help to unlock 5G and ensure the benefits of this new technology are felt across the economy and wider society,” declared Margot James, minister for the digital and creative industries.

5GRuralFirst will see how 5G will help rural communities with areas such as agriculture, broadcasting and utilities in Orkney, while 5G Smart Tourism will work on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies for major attractions in Bath and Bristol. The interesting thing about this project

“Imagine a virtual Roman soldier showing you around the Roman Baths, now imagine this moving 360 degrees on your mobile phone at a resolution you have never experienced before - that’s what 5G technology can offer,” said Tim Bowles, Mayor for the West of England.

The Worcestershire 5G Consortium will investigate how 5G can boost industrial productivity, while the AutoAir project ill make 5G available for Connected and Autonomous (CAVs) at the vehicle proving ground in Millbrook. 5G functions such as enhanced capacity and network slicing will be tested here.

The Rural Integrated Testbed (5GRIT) will also look at rural applications, such as tourism, agriculture and how 5G can help poorly connected communities across swathes of the North of England and Scotland.

Finally, a Liverpool 5G testbed will look at public services using low cost open source 5G networks, VR, AR and the Internet of Things (IoT). This will cover health, social care and communications.


“A successful demonstration of a 5G testbed in health and social care will see the development of new, innovative and disruptive technologies that will help to bridge the digital divide in the UK, especially in deprived communities,” said Professor Joe Spencer of the University of Liverpool.

The UK has ambitions to become a leader in 5G, while the first commercial networks are expected in 2019. 5G will bring ultrafast gigabit speeds, low latency and increased capacity.

Britain’s strength in this global race is perceived to be in its research capabilities.

“5G represents a fundamental transformation of the role that mobile technology plays in society, delivering rich new services in sectors such as finance, transport, retail and health,” Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Founder and Director of 5GIC and leader of 5GUK Networks. “It will drive trillions of dollars of additional activity through the world digital economy and the DCMS programme will ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of this exciting global race.”

Want to find out more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G hub 

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.