West Midlands to host large-scale 5G testbed

The West Midlands has been selected to become the innovative home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed, as part of the Urban Connected Communities Project.

The multi million pound trial of new high speed connectivity will pave the way for the future rollout of 5G across the UK, making the region the first in the UK ready to trial new 5G applications and services at scale, with hubs in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

As such, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will now work with the 5G Testbeds and Trials Team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to seek the best way to integrate ‘Connected Ambulances’, live streaming of CCTV footage from public transport buses and hospital outpatient appointments and emergency consultations that will be carried out remotely by video link not subject to droppage or latency barriers. Regarding Connecting Ambulances, live streaming of patient data from ambulance en route to hospital would help inform the immediate care patients receive on arrival.

Minister for Digital Margot James said: “5G has the potential to dramatically transform the way we go about our daily lives, and we want the citizens of the UK to be amongst the first to experience all the opportunities and benefits this new technology will bring. The West Midlands Testbed, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, will be instrumental in helping us realise this ambition.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This announcement is game-changing for the West Midlands economy. This will be the backbone of our future economy and society. We have been working to put the foundations in place to grow the industries which will create the jobs of the future, particularly around driverless vehicles and life sciences where we have a genuine advantage. To deliver the future of these industries we need the power of 5G.

“The potential of this technology is endless – and we will enjoy the benefits first. From monitoring the health of babies and the elderly, to the way out people are linked to the economy of the future, the way companies do business, the way we deliver public services, the experience of travellers on public transport and the way we deliver City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games – everything can be made better thanks to the power of this technology.”

Up to £50 million is currently available for the project, including £25 million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and a further £25 million match funding from regional partners. An additional £25m may be made available at a later stage.

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