UK 5G Showcase: “We didn’t want 5G. We wanted what 5G delivered”
A key tenet of the Private Networks activity that techUK’s Communications Infrastructure and Services Programme delivers is that the end user should see their needs and requirements met first, before any technological solution is discussed and selected. This engagement between the telecoms ecosystem and its customers was perfectly showcased at the UK 5G event in Birmingham earlier in March.
techUK was a proud partner of the UK 5G Showcase, a two-day celebration to close the DCMS 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, which began in 2018. There were many Testbeds in attendance with their local partners, such as Liverpool 5G Create, 5G ENCODE, and 5G Logistics. We had a glimpse of how the Trial projects are set to evolve in their next stage: nexGworx was borne out of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed and Trials project and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Malvern Hills Science Park, offering a ‘Testbed as a Service’ to those interested in testing and trialling products and services over 5G.
There were award winners too: the Green Planet AR experience, led by Factory 42 (and powered by EE in partnership with the BBC), grabbed the ‘Maximum Citizen Impact and Reach’ prize at the awards dinner, along with MONeH (Multi-Operator Neutral Host) securing the prize for “best potential for business impact”, demonstrating a disruptive business case through their application of 5G technology; the “most innovative use of technology” was awarded to the 5G Festival; and Ann Williams and Dave Happy were both recognised for their individual contributions to 5G industry development and collaboration.
techUK members were also on hand at the Showcase to demonstrate their innovation breakthroughs: Picocom were on hand to give an overview of their PC802 small cell baseband SoC. CGI demonstrated a remote dentistry consultation and inspection (not on me I’m glad to say!). Needless to say, the Boston Dynamics Spot and champagne-flute-dispensing robots were crowd-pleasers.
No one key use case for 5G
The Showcase included a packed agenda of panels and talks, from each vertical addressed by 5GTT, as well as a second day of wider issues and challenges facing the private 5G sector in the future.
We heard from Minister for State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez MP, the announcement of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), senior speakers from Ofcom, DCMS and local health trusts and councils, and telecoms experts from a range of companies.
Key messages emerged on the future telecoms market development: “innovation is hard, and R&D is risky”, and on Open RAN, while it should work as similar “openness” is seen in the wider IT sector, significant structural challenges need to be overcome. Success will not happen overnight.
Whatever lies ahead, the UK 5G Showcase shone a healthy and enjoyable spotlight on the innovation, dedication and collaboration that the UK’s telecoms ecosystem is delivering for real-life projects across our nations and regions.