The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the United Kingdom has confirmed that the West Midlands has been selected to become ‘the innovative home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed’. In a press release regarding the development, the government body revealed that under a multi-million-pound trial of new high speed connectivity, the ‘Urban Connected Communities Project’ – a large-scale, 5G pilot trial – will be carried out across the region, with hubs in the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton. It is understood that up to GBP50 million (USD89 million) is being made available for the project, subject to further development and approval of the business plan, comprising GBP25 million from the DCMS and a further GPB25 million match funding from regional partners; an additional GBP25 million may be made available at a later stage of the project, it was noted. DCMS funding for the project is reportedly coming from the GBP200 million that the government has set aside to develop 5G technologies as part of more than GBP1 billion of investment in next generation digital infrastructure, including via the GBP31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF).
Following its selection through open competition, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will now work with the 5G Testbeds and Trials Team at the DCMS and industry partners on preparing the formal business case for approval, with the first of a series of projects expected to go live early next year. The West Midlands Combined Authorities bid has an initial focus on the health, construction and automotive sectors and, subject to formal approval, initial plans include: hospital outpatient appointments and emergency consultations being carried out remotely by video link; livestreaming of CCTV footage from public transport buses; and the WMCA partnering with Jaguar Land Rover to facilitate real world testing of driverless cars.