U.K. doles out £16M for universities to create 5G Hub

5g (Pixabay)
The project will develop 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualized mobile core network at 3.5 GHz and 700 MHz.

The U.K. government is providing £16 million to create a new 5G Hub linking three universities’ test beds.

Bristol University, King’s College London and the University of Surrey are participating in what’s being billed as the world’s first trials of an end-to-end 5G system. The 5G Hub will provide the foundation for projects such as connected cars and autonomous driving, the U.K.’s Industry 4.0 initiative, healthcare and other areas that address socioeconomic and productivity challenges.

Attendees at next year’s Mobile World Congress will get a peek at their work with demonstrations of end-to-end performance and local showcases. The main aim is to be ready for nationwide connectivity and testing and trials in 2018.

“We want to be at the head of the field in 5G,” said U.K. Minister for Digital Matt Hancock in a press release. “This funding will support the pioneering research needed to ensure we can harness the potential of this technology to spark innovation, create new jobs and boost the economy.”

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Each of the universities brings something unique to the table. The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) will lead the project and develop 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualized mobile core network at 3.5 GHz and 700 MHz frequency bands for enhanced mobile broadband and ultrareliable low latency communications.

Bristol University will deploy 5G capability in the Smart City and Smart Campus test beds in the city, targeting full 5G and fiber infrastructure convergence. Bristol is also contributing SDN technologies for end-to-end 5G service delivery, with public demonstrations focusing on media, gaming and transport applications.

King’s College London contributes its work on the tactile internet—the kind of technology that enables remote surgery, for example, with haptics and network slicing. Through the King’s College London 5G Tactile Internet Lab, the university is pioneering several 5G co-design approaches with various industries, including smart cities, smart transport, performing arts and health.

Initial end-to-end testing will be carried out next year across the three universities; the 5G Hub is using a federated model of working between the three sites.

Interestingly, Juniper Research released new projections on spending for 5G services and predicts that 66% of all 5G operator-billed revenues will come from North America and the Far East and China by 2025; the firm did not release figures for the U.K. specifically.

The U.K.-based research firm did identify SK Telecom as the “most promising” 5G network operator, citing its extensive trials of 5G over the past 24 months in the fields of millimeter wave spectrum, MIMO transmission and network splicing. Others in the most promising category are Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, South Korea’s KT Corp., China Mobile and AT&T Mobility, in that order.

Juniper said its ranking process included analysis of time in development, breadth and value of partnerships and progression of 5G network testing. Curiously, the list did not include Verizon, which has been touting its 5G prowess for the past two years or so.

The report anticipates that 5G operator-billed service revenues will reach $269 billion by 2025, rising from $851 million in 2019 and achieving 161% compound annual growth rate over the first seven years of 5G services.