UK government is offering cash for 5G cleverness

via Flickr © 401(K) 2012 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © 401(K) 2012 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • It wants to help companies tie up international partnerships
  • It has put £1 million on the table for the lucky applicants
  • But then it says the whole thing is about getting the final few (10%) online holdouts to get online

The UK government may be as bought in to the absurd ‘Race to 5G’ as the FCC apparently is (see - In the US, the "Race to 5G" is yet again cited to justify FCC high-handedness ). Although typically, Her Majesty’s Government, perhaps somewhat distracted by other calls on its collective brainpower, is making one of its faint cheers from the trackside.

It’s just announced that it’s allocated a share of £1 million, on offer through its “Innovate UK and the CELTIC-NEXT programme, for UK businesses looking to partner with international companies on 5G R&D projects.” Apply for funding now.

To you and me £1 million probably seems like an attractive wad of cash -  even getting a bit of a share of it would be quite nice thank you very much.

But in the great 5G scheme of things it’s hard to see why a significant International partnership would be nudged one way or the other with a ‘share’ of a million. It it were an exceptionally cunning plan, then the time executives spent applying and form filling would be better spent chasing the business.

But then, I’m clearly protesting about the wrong thing.

This is, in fact, just a form of government virtue signalling that will mean even less than it appears to.  

And to be fair the promo doesn’t mention the ‘Race to 5G’ which is probably a spent force by now as it’s become clearer that there’s no finish line to win by.

5G, as we all know, is a process of network improvement, not a destination. Each country and each telco will invest in capacity after careful consideration of the risk/reward and how much money it calculates its shareholders are likely to be comfortable stumping up - and that process will go on for years and years.

But here’s the government’s reasoning for its funding offer.  

It says that although 90% of UK households have access to the internet, 2.7 million homes remain unconnected. It thinks smartphones, which are the most widely-used means of accessing the internet, could provide the solution, connecting the entire country through 5G. But if that’s the logic, this move seems to be more about encouraging the 5G business as a UK revenue earner, rather than a means of getting everyone online.

The solution to the ‘let’s connect everyone problem’ will come via an assortment of technologies and business models, including Wi-Fi.

But never mind, there’s some cash on offer so, if you were already developing or thinking about an application or two here’s the requirements.

Projects must follow one of the following themes:

  • innovative 5G infrastructure technologies that make use of artificial intelligence (AI) in network operation or multi-access edge computing – cloud-based services on the perimeter of networks

  • applications that use 5G networks for new or improved user experiences, including features in satellite networks or services integrating satellites

Within this, projects must focus on one or more:

  • AI in network operation

  • multi-access edge computing

  • Internet of Things

  • tactile internet

  • mission-critical applications

  • infotainment – material intended to both entertain and inform – mobile services such as advanced media streaming

  • immersive content in industrial environments

Projects can have total eligible costs between £400,000 and £2 million, and organisations are advised to aim for grants around £500,000. Projects must start between October and December 2019 and last between 12 to 24 months.

Competition information

  • the competition opens on 1 April 2019, and the closing date is at midday on 29 May 2019

  • UK-based organisations of any size are eligible to apply

  • applicants must partner with at least 1 UK-based micro or small or medium-sized enterprise, and the project must involve at least 1 organisation from a EUREKA country

  • a briefin g event will be held in London on 2 April 2019 where organisations can find out more about the competition and applying

Find out more about this competition and submit an expression of interest.

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