Digital Catapult has announced it will turn on a 5G mobile network test bed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Brighton in April 2018, using £1.2m of local growth fund investment from local enterprise partnership (LEP) Coast to Capital, and £270,000 of its own cash.
The trial network will be the first non-academic test in the UK of 5G mobile technology, as it pertains to the small business community, and will explore use cases around connected smart city environments that may specifically benefit SMEs. A number of businesses have already engaged with the early stages of the pilot.
Ultimately, said Digital Catapult, the vision is to build a stable, technically well-supported network environment to enable SMEs to access enterprise-grade advanced digital solution that could help them grow quicker.
“The arrival of 5G will be fundamental to UK economic success and international competitiveness in future. 5G will supercharge communications, transforming the way we live, work and play, and drive innovation across industries, from manufacturing to healthcare to the creative industries, where Brighton is particularly prominent,” said Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver.
“The government’s new Industrial Strategy recognises the potential of 5G, but to take full and immediate advantage of this infrastructure, businesses need to be prepared. The establishment of real-scale, open innovation test beds will meet this need.
“The 5G test bed that Digital Catapult is delivering in Brighton is the first of this scale outside of academia, but it won’t be the last.
“It’s our hope that others will follow our example and expand efforts to convene early-stage stakeholders to ensure 5G infrastructure delivers for all.”
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Coast to Capital chief exec Jonathan Sharrock said: “New digital technologies play a vital role in growing our regional economy and the new test bed will help our small and medium sized business to develop the 5G skills, products and services to compete internationally.
“We know that 5G will transform the way that people interact with data and mobile technologies and the opening of this test bed is an opportunity to make sure that Brighton-based businesses are ones that develop the leading apps of the future,” he said.
The Brighton project will be delivered in two phases designed to align with the national acceleration of 5G technology. The first phase will be a 600m₂ indoor small cell deployment at the city’s FuseBox hub.
This installation will use existing commercial-grade packet core software combined with a 5G overlay to enable network slicing and support for mobile edge compute capabilities.
The second stage, set to kick off in June 2018, will see the project deployed in a new and as-yet undisclosed location with upgraded equipment, including 5G new radios (5G NR).
This deployment will be connected through a 1Gbps internet link into 5G nodes at Digital Catapult’s London headquarters, and to the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey.