Ports, warehouses, construction sites – UK lines up £28m for nine new 5G testbeds
The UK government has announced a further £28.3 million in joint public-private funding to support nine new 5G testbeds, as part of its £200 million campaign to leverage 5G to energise the UK industrial sector, and as it seeks to open up UK telecoms supply chains. The move follows
The new funding package comprises £15.2 million from the UK government and £13.1 million coming from project partners. It is the second funding round in the UK’s 5G Create programme, supported by the government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); the first round saw £30 million divided between six projects.
In total, the government has now funded 33 5G testbeds across the UK as part of its £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials programme (5GTT), which 5G Create falls into, and 15 as part of the 5G Create programme. Five of the nine new projects stipulate usage of open RAN 5G networks.
The government said these open RAN networks allow for “greater interoperability of radio equipment between vendors and give operators more choice and flexibility as they roll out 5G”. Open RAN is a key element of the government’s 5G ‘diversification strategy’.
The new round-two funding variously covers the tourism, sports, logistics, transport, creative, and construction industries; the announcement has run with a headline about UK naturalist David Attenborough, related to a 5G-enabled AR project that seeks to bring the “wonders of the natural world” to the people.
However, of most interest to Enterprise IoT Insights, the new funding details a trio of projects dedicated to Industry 4.0. These include: the £5.3 million 5G Logistics initiative in Bristol, looking at asset tracking in port and warehouse environments; the £3.4 million 5G Ports project at the Port of Felixstowe, looking at remote-controlled cranes and crane maintenance; and the £1.7 million 5G AMC 2 project for the construction industry, taking place in Scotland, which seeks to make use of cameras, drones, and mixed reality for asset tracking and process optimisation.
All of these will leverage private 5G networks. The first and third use open RAN; the second, at the Port of Felixstowe, is being managed by Hutchison Ports, and engages mobile operator Three UK, also a subsidiary of CK Hutchison Holdings.
Matt Warman, minister for digital infrastructure, said: “5G is about so much more than faster mobile internet speeds so we’re investing millions to help some of Britain’s brightest innovators explore the huge potential of the technology to improve and enrich our lives. The projects we’ve selected will demonstrate how the blistering speeds of 5G can put some rocket fuel in our economy and help businesses bounce back from the pandemic.”
Full detail of all nine projects is listed below.
1 | Milton Keynes 5G (MK5G)
Total funding: £4,103,022
Government funding: £2,397,243
Project location: Milton Keynes, South East
Milton Keynes Council will test out 5G applications at Stadium MK, home of football team MK Dons, to illustrate how it can “empower” other venues to boost efficiency and create better experiences. The trials will include using driverless shuttles and road vehicles for moving people and goods across the site, autonomous surveillance vehicles and drones for enhancing security, and testing out robots and drones for goods delivery and hospitality use.
John Cove, director at MK Dons said: “We have been able to bring together a world class team to integrate and exploit 5G capability in a dynamic real world environment – this will truly demonstrate how Stadium MK can use new technology to support a major international sporting and cultural venue.”
2 | Eden Universe (OpenRAN)
Total funding: £3,338,333
Government funding: £1,662,881
Project location: South Cornwall, South West
The Eden Project will explore how 5G and 360-degree video can enhance the visitor experience. Those who are unable to go to the Eden site in person will be able to experience the exhibits and talks from anywhere in the world via a desktop, mobile or virtual reality device and be taken on a real-time virtual reality tour. The local 5G infrastructure will also be used to provide real-time data on core services such as energy and water management.
Dan James, development director at the Eden Project, said: “We are looking forward to testing just how 5G can help support our educational, arts, and community programmes, and provide new and exciting reasons for people to keep visiting us in person or virtually. The data collected through the 5G network will also help us manage the site and improve the visitor experience and our environmental performance.”
3 | Connected Cowes (OpenRAN)
Total funding: £1,654,389
Government funding: £826,915
Project location: Isle of Wight, South East
The Connected Cowes project is looking at how 5G can create an “immersive yacht racing experience” for the sailing community and spectators in Cowes and online. 5G will be used to stream VR video from yachts racing at events from Cowes. This will be used to create content and enable immersive teaching using 5G-powered VR.
Laurence Mead, regatta director at Cowes Week, said: “This funding is going to enable us to showcase world-beating, non-stadium sports coverage. Our event takes place over 20 square miles of water and will test 5G to the limit.”
4 | 5G AMC 2 (OpenRAN)
Total funding: £1,692,733
Government funding: £846,365
Project location: Shetland and Kilsyth, Scotland
5G AMC 2 (Accelerate, Maximise and Create for Construction) will explore how 5G enables the use of data to maximise productivity of construction processes. The project will set up a private 5G network at construction firm BAM Nuttall’s regional office in Kilsyth, Scotland, and a construction project in Shetland.
The private 5G network will connect cameras, drones, mixed reality, and IoT sensors to monitor construction processes and track assets. The project will be an enabler for digital solutions that improve construction productivity for the wider UK construction industry. It will be delivered by a consortium led by BAM Nuttall partnered with AttoCore and Building Research Establishment.
Colin Evison, head of innovation at BAM Nuttall, said: “The 5G Create… will help us in our mission to build sustainable environments that enhance people’s lives. The project outcomes will benefit our business and the wider construction industry in its drive to improve productivity.”
5 | Live and Wild: Filming with 5G (OpenRAN)
Total funding: £2,136,420
Government funding: £1,224,834
Project location: Leeds, North East
Live & Wild: Filming with 5G will test 5G’s capacity to support the needs of the documentary film industry in the UK. Filming will take place in a variety of extreme locations and weather conditions across the UK designed to test 5G’s performance to its limit, including in caving, sea cliff climbing, and ultra-running.
Patricia Doherty, project director at Candour TV, said: “We are really looking forward to discovering the ways in which 5G can help us deliver fast-turnaround and live video content without compromising on high production values. This could be a game changer for the UK film industry.”
6 | Project Vista
Total funding: £2,334,844
Government funding: £1,307,972
Project location: London
This project will provide live multi-angle HD video streams and interactive content from events direct to devices in stadia and across the UK. The goal is to demonstrate consumer demand and deliver the business case to enable 5G-powered sporting events in the near future. The consortium is led by Members Association DTG (Digital TV Group) working in partnership with Digital Catapult, GWS, O2 Telefonica, and Rohde & Schwarz.
Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at O2 Telefonica, said: “We are excited… to create something innovative and exciting that will not only enhance our customers’ experience at events, but add a whole new and exciting dimension to live sports.”
7 | The Green Planet AR
Total funding: £4,409,162
Government funding: £2,275,498
Project location: London & South West
This project will demonstrate an immersive AR experience offering a way for audiences to learn more about the natural world by streaming scientifically accurate plants and creatures into a number of set locations around the UK. The consortium is led by immersive content company Factory 42, working in partnership with BBC Studios, EE, Talesmith, Dimension Studios and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
John Cassy, founder and chief executive at Factory 42, said: “The importance of protecting the planet has never been greater and the opportunity to use emerging technologies to engage audiences of all ages in environmental issues in new ways is hugely exciting.”
8 | 5G Ports – Port of Felixstowe
Total funding: £3,405,776
Government funding: £1,634,590
Project location: Suffolk Coast, East
Working with Three UK, Cambridge University, and Blue Mesh Solutions, along with Ericsson and Siemens, the project will test 5G across two use cases: remote-controlled crane operations, managed via real-time camera feeds, and predictive maintenance of 31 quay-side and 82 yard cranes, enabled by IoT and AI. The project will harness the speed, low-latency, and high-capacity of 5G.
Clemence Cheng, managing director at Hutchison Ports Europe, said: “Being the first UK port to introduce 5G technology will allow the Port of Felixstowe to deploy innovative technologies to boost efficiency and improve safety for our workforce. It ties in well with government policy to create a network of Freeports to act as hotbeds for innovation and to act as hubs for global trade.”
9 | 5G Logistics (OpenRAN)
Total funding: £5,268,708
Government funding: £3,054,994
Project location: Bristol, South West
The 5G Logistics project will develop 5G products and services to support operations at Bristol Port and Gravity Smart Campus and demonstrate a smart and dynamic port environment. The project will focus on security, traceability, and tracking of goods within and across extendable virtual boundaries – and between public and private networks.
It will demonstrate how efficiency and productivity could be improved by replacing existing manual scanned barcode identification with automated recognition and real-time location tracking of items within a 5G-based IoT environment. The project offers the potential for such advances in technology to be implemented industry-wide; including at other ports in the UK,enterprise zones, or other business parks.
Tim Bowles, mayor for the West of England, said: “5G has the potential to revolutionise whole industries and economies, creating exciting new jobs and opportunities. I want the West of England to be at the forefront of this revolution… Backing innovation and the jobs of the future and bringing new investment to the region by securing a Freeport are key parts of our plan for economic recovery, so this is a big vote of confidence in the West of England.”