If the UK can seize the full potential of 5G networks and implement advanced industrial use cases, it could benefit from £14.8bn in additional economic growth, according to research from Analysys Mason.
The study, Cost-benefit analysis on full 5G deployment – UK results, commissioned by Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, set out to provide a cost-benefit analysis of 5G by market segment. Notably, it suggested that more than three-quarters of the total projected additional economic growth from 5G will be driven by three industries – manufacturing (adding £5.2bn), construction (£4.2bn) and agriculture (£2.2bn).
The report provides a glimpse of what the UK’s future powerhouse industries might look like. Use cases include: thousands of connected sensors to allow for unprecedented monitoring of factories, crops and construction sites; remotely controlled and autonomous vehicles such as forklifts and tractors; extended reality to enhance worker capabilities; and advanced collaborative robotics, such as drones, for surveillance of livestock or building sites.
The survey cites the case of the UK’s first 5G factory, launched by Worcester Bosch, which it says is already demonstrating some of these possibilities with real-time machine sensors to reduce downtime and increase product safety, while Ford and Siemens are adding 5G-powered low-latency connectivity and private networks to help improve productivity and efficiency in existing factory systems.
As well as forecasting an over five-times return on investment for companies investing in 5G as an open innovation platform, the report outlines numerous social and environmental benefits the next-generation network technology could deliver. Alongside levelling up the UK’s economy, the report suggests 5G can also be central in creating a more sustainable economy – a key priority for the government, which has committed to placing sustainability at the heart of its economic recovery plans to “build back greener”.
The areas in which 5G is said to have the most significant positive environmental impact for the UK are in more efficient and lower-carbon farming, reducing unnecessary waste or excessive use of fertiliser, and in freight by facilitating just-in-time supply chains and more efficient transport of goods.
Yet despite the great potential of 5G, the report highlights several challenges the UK faces in realising its full benefits. Despite being an early leader in launching 5G networks, the estimated 5G population coverage in the UK was most recently about 30%, placing it around the average for European countries where 5G has been launched, says Analysys Mason. This, said the report, places the UK well behind leaders Switzerland and Finland, and level with the likes of Denmark and Sweden.
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Going forward, the report makes several specific recommendations on UK policy that would help the country accelerate its 5G adoption. These include ramping up the availability and uptake of 5G infrastructure for use in priority sectors relating to production and logistics, such as manufacturing, freight and utilities, that will see the largest and most significant benefits.
It also advises extending 5G coverage further into rural areas and encouraging operators to roll out high-density networks to provide very high capacity for 5G in urban applications, such as construction.
“This new research shows that 5G technology will be a foundation for the UK’s future as it recovers from Covid-19 and builds a world-leading digital economy,” said John Griffin, head of Ericsson UK and Ireland. “As an open innovation platform, 5G will accelerate digital transformation and help the UK establish a truly global leadership position in the industries and technologies of the future.
“Ericsson is already leading the deployment of 5G in the UK and is committed to developing the early use cases that will deliver the economic, social and environmental returns to build a sustainable and resilient infrastructure for future generations.”