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O2 to launch UK’s first 5G accelerators in three West Midlands cities

Consortium led by Telefónica UK Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult to build 5G accelerators in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry

In a move that it says will benefit more than 2,000 businesses in the region, West Midlands 5G (WM5G) – the organisation that is delivering the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed – has awarded a major contract to a consortium led by Telefónica UK (O2) to build 5G accelerators in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry.

WM5G is backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), and joining O2 in the consortium are Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult.

The three 5G accelerators will have centrally located office and demonstration spaces with access to cutting-edge 5G technology, both indoors and outdoors, extending several kilometres. Each venue will have access to private 5G networks, enabling businesses and public sector organisations in the respective areas to be able to experiment with 5G features that are not yet commercially released. This will be combined with 5G devices, professional advice and technical support.

WM5G also notes that, unlike 5G R&D facilities, the 5G accelerators will be designed specifically to attract businesses and entrepreneurs to solve major problems and opportunities that, when proven, can be commercially scaled. The launch event will be followed by the launch of two more accelerators in Wolverhampton and Coventry later this year. All three facilities will be branded as 5PRING.

WM5G believes that at least 2,000 private sector businesses and public sector organisations in the West Midlands and beyond will benefit from using the 5G accelerators over the next five years. It says that by using the 5G accelerators, businesses and public sector organisations will be able to experience a live 5G network, discover the benefits that 5G can bring to their organisation, and work with innovators to take advantage of 5G through new applications and services.

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I am delighted that the West Midlands is to be the first region in the UK to launch these cutting-edge 5G innovation centres. These new centres will allow thousands of businesses and organisations across the region to experience 5G first-hand, and this will be a great advertisement for the West Midlands as we look to encourage more businesses to relocate here.”

O2 COO Derek McManus added: “O2 has championed 5G business innovation for a while now and we are incredibly pleased to have been awarded this contract. Being able to help businesses in the West Midlands realise the potential of 5G is a fantastic opportunity and something we are excited to bring our expertise to. Our own consortium – alongside our collaborators, Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult – worked very hard to win this contract and we look forward to bringing this to life.”

Robert Franks, managing director of WM5G, said: “The West Midlands has a proud heritage leading the previous industrial revolution. Through the 5G accelerators that we’re launching in partnership with O2 and its consortium, our region is in prime position to lead the next industrial revolution.”

WM5G and its consortium members are reviewing the precise nature of how they will launch the 5G accelerators to businesses – including remote access options – in line with the government’s advice on the Covid-19 coronavirus.

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