UK govt offers £30m reward for 5G use cases

Nick Wood
By Nick Wood

Apr 8, 2020

  • DCMS invites all industry verticals to apply for funding for 5G-based projects
  • Security and supply chain diversity high up the agenda amid Huawei concerns
  • Initiative begs question: what can 5G do for a typical office that's new and exciting?

The UK government has launched a £30 million fund for killer 5G use cases in an effort accelerate mass adoption in the enterprise market.

It is called 5G Create and is being organised by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)'s 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT). It is on the lookout for ideas from all sectors, industries and regions that identify new opportunities and markets that arise from new business models enabled by 5G.

Entrants must be based in the UK to be eligible for funding. Individual projects can bid for grants of between £250,000 and £5 million. More money may be made available to projects at a later date at DCMS's discretion. It will also consider applications for larger sums. Successful applicants will need to show that their project is sustainable after it has burned through its grant.

DCMS doesn't give example use cases – that's down to the entrants – but areas of interest include combining AI, machine learning and connectivity, and new user interfaces like voice recognition, AR/VR, and even neural interfaces.

Interestingly, the entry brochure mentions the importance of ensuring the security of 5G networks, and encouraging diversification of the UK's telco supply chain. These focus areas were added to 5GTT's mandate by the Government Telecoms Supply Chain Review, which came in response to concern over the UK's reliance on Huawei.

It will be interesting to see if any truly new use cases emerge from 5G Create, or whether it's the same stuff as before, but just quicker, slicker, and more responsive.

That seems to be the focus right now, with operators pushing enhanced mobile broadband for consumers as their primary commercial offer, leading some to question whether 5G really brings anything new to the table. Telcos and their suppliers promise that further down the line, high speed and low latency connections will support real-time services and – when combined with machine learning and AI – increased automation.

There are numerous examples of real-world use cases based on these performance characteristics. They have been applied to various verticals, like manufacturing, automotive, logistics, agriculture, utilities and so-on. But widespread, commercial implementation is still in the early stages; mass adoption is still a long way off.

And there is still a lingering question over what 5G can offer in a typical office environment, beyond just a faster wireless connection to corporate data and applications, and a better video conferencing experience.

Indeed, "5G will only be one component of the enterprise vertical technology stack, and larger than connectivity only if the telco value chain builds expertise for each vertical separately," warned Stuart Carlaw, chief research officer at ABI Research, late last year.

Maybe initiatives like 5G Create will turn up the answers to these questions. Somebody needs to, because right now, 5G is not delivering on the hype.


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