Scotland starts private 5G rollout in bid to add £17bn GDP and 160,000 jobs
The Scotland 5G Centre, a government-sponsored research centre with the universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, has opened a private 5G network testbed in Dumfries in the south of Scotland, to be followed by a second private 5G showcase before the year is out in the Forth Valley, which covers the cities of Stirling and Falkirk north of Glasgow. A third private 5G testbed will open in Dundee, set as the third venue for the centre’s regional S5GConnect testbeds.
S5GConnect Dumfries, opened last week, is billed as its “first rural hub”. The national Scotland 5G Centre is headquartered at the University of Strathclyde; its agenda is to realise the “economic and societal potential” of 5G for Scotland. The new S5GConnect hubs, also slated to open in the Forth Valley and in Dundee, are funded by a £4m investment from the Scottish government, via the Scottish Futures Trust, an executive non-departmental public body.
The hubs will offer 5G proving grounds for local enterprises. The 5G centre implied there will be further S5GConnect venues, with “live test beds opening across the regions”. The new private 5G network in Dumfries, located at the Crichton Centre, an environmental charity focused on rural land management, will kick-off with a live holographic display, transmitting real-time 3D images with a view, specifically, to advance remote healthcare in rural regions.
The Forth Valley hub, going live next month, is for “businesses of all sizes”. The Scottish government’s 5G strategy seeks to provide public funding and infrastructure, to go with private contributions, and to complement the efforts of public network operators, to put the country “at the forefront of [the ‘fourth’ industrial] revolution”. Scotland can add £17 billion and 160,000 jobs in economic value by 2035 by “enhancing [its] 5G capability”, the government reckons.
The Dumfries setup, in a new “collaborative centre for learning and innovation”, also seeks to support the ‘levelling up’ of the digital divide, in line with broader pledges by the UK government. The ‘holoportation’ demo, a version of the AR-style remote-access case that has been fruitful in industrial 5G setups, puts rural practitioners in touch with expert clinicians in London. The same principle applies for remote access to resources in education and enterprise.
As well, the core private ‘5G in a box’ setup is supposed to make clear that cellular broadband access should be easy to find, even in rural areas. Meanwhile, the Dumfries site will play host to AR- and MR-based (augmented and mixed reality) app for tourists, to ‘take’ rural folk to Cambridge and Stonehenge, to ‘experience’ the ceiling mural at King’s College Cathedral and ‘walk’ among the standing stones on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
Paul Coffey, chief executive at the Scotland 5G Centre, said: “It’s an exciting day as our first 5G network goes live in our rural connect hub – creating real opportunities for the investment and use of this transformational technology. Our S5GConnect Programme is here to lead the way, a platform for innovation and to accelerate the roll out of digital connectivity by collaborating with the local businesses, academic institutions and partners.
“Scotland is uniquely placed to take advantage of 5G. We are creating opportunities for investors and mobile operators to link with a variety of sectors including manufacturing, logistics, farming and healthcare. This will in turn lead to scaling up and commercialisation to create new skills and jobs and will make a positive and real difference to Scotland’s economy.”
Lara Moloney, head of S5GConnect, said: “Providing an environment to test and trial 5G marks an important step forward as we work with businesses and network operators to adopt 5G in Scotland. Our innovation hubs create an opportunity for partnership and collaboration, allowing businesses from start-ups to established industries, to learn how to utilise 5G and use it to their competitive advantage.”