UK ramps up 5G efforts by combining efforts of three universities

The UK is seeking to maximize the impact of its 5G program by linking testbeds at three universities via a new 5G Hub, which will receive £16m in investment.

The funding was announced by the UK’s minister for digital, Matt Hancock. He said it will bring the universities – Bristol, Surery and King’s College London – together for the development of the “world’s first trials of end-to-end 5G systems”.

Governments and stakeholders in China, Japan and South Korea might question that claim, but combining the efforts of the UK’s three main 5G-oriented academic programs should certainly increase the country’s impact on overall 5G R&D. The investment will fund developments at each of the three institutions, and enable them to work in partnership.

Bristol University will deploy 5G capabilities in the western city’s well-established smart city and smart campus testbeds, targeting full 5G and fiber infrastructure convergence. Bristol will also contribute to work on software-defined networking technologies for end-to-end 5G service delivery. Public demonstrators will be key result, focused on media, gaming and transport applications.

King’s College London is leading work on ultra-low latency 5G, to enable future Tactile Internet applications and interfaces, especially the ‘Internet of Skills’ (robotics, remote virtualized training and others). Through the college’s 5G Tactile Internet Lab, the university is 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) was founded as the centerpiece of the UK’s 5G program and will still take the leadership role in the expanded initiative. It will focus on developing 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualized mobile core network in two key sub-6 GHz bands for 5G, 3.5 GHz and 700 MHz. It will examine enhanced mobile broadband and ultra-reliable low latency communications.

Hancock said: “We want to be at the head of the field in 5G. 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, ultra-fast 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 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, said the statement about its formation.

Initial end-to-end testing will be carried out early next year across the three sites, with a demonstration at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona. The Hub will enable connection of additional testbeds and applications across the UK and will be ready to include further organizations from next year onwards.

The 5G Hub is designed to be flexible enough to support projects in many 5G-enabled sectors including connected cars and autonomous driving, Industrie 4.0, advanced health and others.

In year one, internal test use cases will be used to validate the end-to-end 5G network, interfaces and capability in a controlled environment across the three sites. The internal use cases will also be used to validate testbed external interfaces, thus preparing the test bed to connect to other projects  and testbeds from year two (2018).