As we mentioned two years ago, 5G will be fundamentally different from previous mobile technologies, enabling a huge range of enterprise applications to be practically delivered.
Governments around the world have recognised the importance of 5G, and the UK Government is investing £200 million to test 5G technology in addition to its considerable investment in fibre.
Those 5G testbeds and trials are already demonstrating what 5G can offer business, including control of robotics and vehicles; untethered VR; and gathering real time data from thousands of sensors enabling real time inventory to better support ‘just-in-time’ supply.
Wireless technologies, with 5G at the core, will be the invisible enabler of Industry 4.0.
However, there are a few additional things that we can now do to speed up 5G reaching users and help industry grasp the opportunities and reap the benefits of this technology.
To help speed up deployment, techUK has been working extensively with local government to increase mutual understanding between Councils and operators; to support the adoption of standard templates for planning and streetworks; and to advocate support for 5G being in scope when undertaking targeted interventions in support of fibre (for example, where fibre is put into social housing developments).
Additionally, to ensure that 5G is deployed in a timely manner, mobile operators will need to share infrastructure as much as possible, including accessing existing public infrastructure where available. If Network Rail allowed mobile operators to deploy wireless infrastructure trackside, mobile connectivity could be greatly improved along major trail routes.
techUK has been working with local government on increasing visibility of public assets, and we are delighted to see that the Cabinet Office has funded an underground assets trial with the Greater London Authority, which should result in an asset portal which all telecoms operators could access.
But even if 5G rollout proceeds apace, against a backdrop of flatlining productivity levels we need to ensure that businesses could seize the benefits of 5G without delay. That means addressing the 5G enterprise knowledge gap.
There is a widespread lack of understanding within business of the potential value offered by 5G, and the return on investment that can be provided. This lack of understanding and skills combine to create a barrier to adopting, planning and implementing, 5G services. The Digital Catapult addressed this within their recent report that focused on implementing 5G in the manufacturing sector. techUK is pleased to also work with the Digital Catapult to address these issues further and to influence businesses on looking at this within their sector.
Government could also help here, as techUK suggested in our letter to the new Government perhaps by building on the business connections which Local Enterprise Partnerships have.
If these challenges are overcome, Government can become a pioneer in supercharging the benefits of 5G in the UK and ensure the achievements are met. We must highlight the importance of digital technology and the opportunities that can arise from them to ensure the UK becomes a digital enabled economy.