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New government-funded trials of 5G technology could cause a paradigm shift in the way UK businesses operate.
The government’s providing £25m as part of its £1bn Digital Strategy to support six trials and testbeds.
Trials in the US have shown the potential for huge improvements to wireless connection speeds using the fledgling 5G. In one trial a ‘median’ user of 4G had 71Mbps connection speeds compared to 1.4Gbps for a median user of 5G.
The largest grant of £5m goes to the West of England Combined Authority’s 5G smart tourism project which aims to use 5G to deliver augmented and virtual reality experiences at key tourist sites.
The UK trials of 5G are also being closely linked to Internet of Things technologies, the expanding range of monitoring and tracking devices.
One of the testbed schemes selected by the government is 5G RuralFirst. Managed by Cisco in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, its main focus is the Orkney Islands and rural Shropshire and Somerset. It aims to integrate spectrum-sharing strategies for 5G, to uplift connectivity for rural communities.
5G will be tested on farms and in other rural industries to control drones, autonomous farm vehicles and conduct remote veterinary inspections.
Another trial is being run by AutoAir which will use 5G to validate and develop autonomous vehicles. This could have major implications for road haulage, private car use and supply chain management.
Gary Jowett from Computer & Network Consultants in Brighton says: “We all need to keep an eye on progress of the trials because they could have a direct impact on the way businesses operate and the technology used in the long term. Previous assumptions about how to manage remote operations, where to base your workforce and how many people you need to do the job, could radically change. One of the trials is looking into the use of robotics for maintenance of equipment to increase industrial productivity. So 5G could bring big changes in factories and other working environments.”