UK businesses will be able to tap into the potential of 5G and satellite technology as a new testing facility is being created.
The engineering hub, set to be built by the IT and business consultancy CGI in ESA-ECSAT at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, is being backed by over £3 million of government investment and due for completion in 2021.
Providing a base for UK researchers and businesses to experiment, the new 5G hub – eventually planned to extend across the entire Harwell campus – will provide a testing facility that can show the benefits of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks. The hope is that once the technology is demonstrated the techniques can be rolled out to other businesses across the UK.
5G connectivity is likely going to change the world and its considered the next meteoric leap in wireless communications, offering faster data speeds and less latency across networks. This low “latency” — the millisecond gap between action and reaction — has the potential to accelerate the green revolution needed to tackle climate change. It paves the way for vehicles to swap data nearly instantly, which can aid navigation and, for example, mean a car can begin to apply the brakes before a driver is aware of an accident.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
Space and tech companies are focusing on 5G because it allows for a broad range of applications across industries, including Internet of Things technology and augmented reality, all of which can be applied to manufacturing, public safety, enterprise and communications software and entertainment and gaming.
5G will enable more devices to be connected for more of the time: the “Internet of Things”, where chips in billions of devices talk to one another, bringing the prospect of huge efficiencies in everything from medicine and manufacturing to farming. It is also a quick, affordable way of bringing a fast data network to places where cables will not reach, from remote villages to disaster zones.
This new facility will develop software that allows satellite networks, including low-Earth orbit networks, to be integrated into terrestrial public and private communications networks. This will create new business opportunities for application developers and mobile network providers.
The centre is being backed by a European Space Agency contract, and as part of the development CGI is working with BT, Avanti Communications and the University of Surrey on a project to see how it can connect rural communities to 5G in the most affordable way possible.
Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications and integrated applications at ESA, said:
Shaun Stretton, Senior Vice President for UK & Australia Space Control and Information Solutions at CGI, said:
Matthew Evans, Markets Director, techUK, said:
In October three UK employers pledged to create 5,000 tech-related jobs. Liberty Global, the owner of Virgin Media, and O2’s parent, Telefónica, unveiled plans to create 4,000 jobs in the UK and another 1,000 apprenticeships to accelerate the rollout of 5G.