£16m 5G Hub to link three universities’ test beds
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:
Matt Hancock, minister of state for digital. Photo credit: John Phillips/Getty Images

Three sites in the UK will be linked up via 5G test beds thanks to £16m in investment from the Government.

The funding, announced by Matt Hancock, the minister of state for digital, on 7 July, will bring three UK universities together for the development of end-to-end 5G system trials, which will be conducted in "wide real environment areas" and with combinations of different frequencies. The trials will be expanded in 2018 to cover additional use cases such as connected cars, car to car, VR/AR and remote surgery.

The investment will fund technological developments at each of the three universities, linking all three sites through design and research, and will see all three work in partnership to keep the UK at the forefront of 5G technology development.

Bristol University will deploy 5G capability in the extensive Smart City and Smart Campus test beds in the city, targeting full 5G and fibre infrastructure convergence. Bristol will also contribute to the key Software Defined Network technologies for end-to-end 5G service delivery. Public demonstrators will be the focus of delivery, targeting media, gaming and transport applications.

King’s College London is developing ultra-low latency 5G tactile internet developments with Internet of Skills applications. Through the King’s College London 5G Tactile Internet Lab, it is also pioneering several 5G co-design approaches with various industries, including smart cities, smart transport, performing arts and health.

The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) will lead the project and develop 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualised mobile core network at 3.5GHz and 700 MHz frequency bands for enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC).

“We want to be at the head of the field in 5G,” said Hancock. “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.

“We know 5G has the potential to bring more reliable, ultrafast mobile connectivity, with quicker reaction times and larger data capabilities, and I’m thrilled to announce King’s College London and the universities of Surrey and Bristol have agreed to collaborate on this project.”

The 5G Hub will be integrated at the system level and connected across the three university sites. It will build sufficient capability and capacity for further nationwide test and trials of 5G technologies and advanced applications.

It will use a federated model of working between the three Universities to develop the described 5G capabilities, but ready for expansion to include other organisations from 2018 onwards. In its first year of operation it will: create an end-to-end test bed, distributed across the three University sites, and demonstrate end-to-end system performance at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, 2018 and local showcases. The main aim is for the 5G Hub to become ready for nationwide connectivity and testing and trials in 2018.

The 5G Hub will create and support projects in multiple areas, such as connected cars and autonomous driving, Industry 4.0, Health and many others, addressing major socio-economic and productivity challenges.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, director of the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol and Chief Scientific Officer for Bristol Is Open, said: “University of Bristol has an international reputation for research on telecommunications and has recently demonstrated pioneering research on 5G technologies and networks. This exciting new partnership and investment will leverage the University’s plans for investment in Smart City infrastructure and the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, which aims to create more opportunities for the region’s businesses and citizens.”

Professor Mischa Dohler, head of the Centre for Telecommunications Research at King’s, said: “King’s is a university within an international community that serves the world and through this alliance we will continue to research to inform and innovate as we carry out world-leading and outward-looking research focused on meeting societal need.

“We’re delighted to be part of this unique partnership, which allows us to make substantial contributions to the UK and global 5G innovation ecosystem which otherwise would not have been possible. This activity is part of a major expansion of our engineering and business activities on our Strand Campus, enabled by the acquisition of Bush House, the former headquarters of the BBC World Service.”

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of the 5GIC at the University of Surrey, said: “As the Hub leader from 5GIC at the University of Surrey, it is really exciting to be collaborating with our colleagues to develop this national asset that can mobilise intense testing and trials for mobile broadband as well as other applications such as connected and autonomous cars, new games, connected health and many more applications. We already have a proven track record of developing, trialling and testing 5G technology here at the 5GIC, and this will see us grow that across the country to further develop and realise the end-to-end 5G.

“The test bed will benefit the UK’s 5G ecosystem by enabling trials of secure, interoperable technology and services, hardened against cyber-attack.”

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