Home5GSunderland takes smart-city 5G to uni areas; West Midlands wins £10m for 5G innovation

Sunderland takes smart-city 5G to uni areas; West Midlands wins £10m for 5G innovation

Sunderland City Council and the University of Sunderland in the UK have appointed BAI Communications (BAI), already engaged on a 20-year deal with the city council to build and operate a 5G network to support municipal services and the local manufacturing sector, to also deploy 5G across university campus areas to support support research, teaching, and student studies.

The university rollout is an extension to the existing smart-city deal, in fact. US firm Mavenir has been recruited, in turn, to supply 5G radio and core network software for the network. A 5G test lab will be developed on the university’s Sir Tom Cowie campus at St Peter’s. Other features include a new IoT network across the university’s campuses, to improve operational efficiency for estate management and footfall analytics, among other applications.

Enhanced public WiFi will be available across the campuses, in line with the public rollout across the city centre of and Roker as part of its smart city infrastructure roll-out. Other developments include the improvement of wireless infrastructure at the Stadium of Light, home of Sunderland AFC.

The university said the new infrastructure will make it “one of the UK’s first 5G-enabled universities, putting it at the forefront of smart education”. A statement said: “The university community will benefit from technology enhanced teaching environments and cutting-edge research opportunities for uses of 5G and IoT in key local sectors including manufacturing and healthcare. It will also open up further digital employment possibilities for students.

Billy D’Arcy, chief executive at BAI Communications UK, said: “Our work with the University of Sunderland will help it to become a leading 5G university, hugely enhancing campus services for students and staff, and creating new research and employment opportunities for the local population. 5G and IoT technologies are crucial growth areas which will be central in the digital economies of the future.”

Sir David Bell, vice chancellor at the University of Sunderland, said: “The collaboration… is an excellent example of how different sectors and bodies are working together to put Sunderland at the forefront of digital innovation. Educational institutions, public services and business all benefit from enhanced digital infrastructure so I am very optimistic about the opportunities this partnership will open up for our students, staff and the wider community.”

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “For Sunderland, becoming a smart city is about realising our potential, and education is at the heart of that. Putting the University of Sunderland at the forefront of innovation in 5G and IoT tech will open up new opportunities for students, businesses and residents in Sunderland. Our city has a proud industrial history and our partnership with BAI Communications will make Sunderland a hub for the digital industries of the future.”

Meanwhile, in the West Midlands, home of the UK’s main government-funded 5G testbed, the West Midlands 5G (WM5G) consortium has won a £10m tender to create a new UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), first announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in March. WM5G won the tender as part of a UK wide consortium led by Digital Catapult and also including Cambridge Wireless and the University of Bristol.

A statement said: “UKTIN aims to make the UK the easiest place in the world to access and take part in telecoms research, development and innovation. It will guide businesses and researchers looking to access funding or testing facilities in the UK and enable the best use of public and private investment in R&D, as well as ensuring that knowledge is effectively and efficiently shared across the telecoms industry.”

WM5G will also create a National Telecoms Entrepreneurship, Employment and Training network as part of the UKTIN project. UKTIN is expected to be up and running in September. WM5G is engaged in the local 5PRING project with the likes of Telefónica and Deloitte to find and fund new 5G applications for smart cities. It has also hosted a 5G showcase from BT and University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB), an NHS foundation trust, to demonstrate a 5G connected ambulance and remote ultrasound.

Meanwhile, the Worcestershire 5G (W5G) and West Midlands 5G (WM5G) groups, formed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and DCMS, have installed a private 5G network at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry for manufacturing companies to test new production methods. WM5G has also had a hand in a private 5G deployment from BT at precision engineering firm AE Aerospace, which makes prototype components for the aerospace and defence industries, as a proving ground for private 5G among industrial SMEs.

Robert Franks, managing director at WM5G, said: “We’re delighted to have won this tender along with our consortium partners and DCMS. The UK already invests over £1 Billion a-year in telecoms research, development and innovation. Through UKTIN we will turbo-charge this investment – helping the UK extend its leadership in open networks and vital new technologies such as 5G and 6G – building on the strengths of our regional clusters to create more skilled jobs, attract more investment and deliver economic growth.”

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