UK will be ‘at the forefront of 5G’

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Government reassures telcos and businesses ahead of anticipated 2019 launch

The government reassured telcos and business leaders the UK will be ‘at the forefront of 5G’ by April with plans in place to accelerate its deployment despite Brexit looming.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) chief executive William Priest delivered a keynote speech at this year’s Capacity Europe during which he announced the government had launched 5G test beds and trials on October 24 in urban and rural areas of the UK to provide real-life scenarios and challenges when testing services in individual sectors.

He said this was “only the first wave of the competition, this will help, we hope, encourage the development of the 5G ecosystem in the UK.”

He added: “This April the UK will be at the forefront of 5G which will also help boost the UK’s benefit to the economy and its citizens.”

He announced further projects will be launched in the next two years in the build up to 5G release in 2020. “There will be a number of projects to be funded throughout 2018 and 2019 so we can take earnings from both vertical market places and horizontal processes where 5G can really make a difference,” he said.

Chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond announced in the Spring Budget that more than £16 million will be invested into an “innovation network” designed to work with research institutions: the University of Surrey, University of Bristol and King’s College London.

In mid-October the government announced the 700MHz spectrum will be freed up for telecommunication firms, which will be auctioned next year, according to Priest.

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) and programme-making and special events (PMSE) licensees will be cleared of its existing users. Priest said: “In terms of major programmes we’re also clearing out 700Mhz spectrum. This is our way to free up more spectrum to gain more mobile coverage.

This will free up 700MHz spectrum which will be auctioned in 2019 or so, to be made available to MNOs in around 2020, It’s critical to ensure our digital infrastructure is prepared for the
future”.

Brexit

Priest assured business leaders the UK remains in good stead and telecommunications will be have a special focus when eventually going into trade negotiations with the EU. He claims the leaving process will be implemented slowly until March 31, 2019, to avoid “cliff edges”.

Priest said the UK was seventh best economy in the world to open businesses in 2016, according to the World Economic Forum.

He said: “Almost every business is reliant on telecoms to do business as is every branch of government. It also recognises business leaders in the UK are integral to making the UK a truly digital economy in the 21st century.

“We will be seeing a Brexit implementation for the next two years. Time-limited phase process of implementation will be the way to progress which should avoid any cliff edge as we move from our current relationship to our future one.

“We want to give assurance it is our intention to make sure we get the best out of Brexit. We’ve been listening to business leaders who have been calling for a strong economy and the certainty of investment to be free-flowing, and have the ability to have the staff to develop telecoms infrastructure in broadband and 5G. That’s exactly the focus we’re leading with in negotiations”.

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