The UK government recently announced its intention to invest “£740 million(US$ 904.94 million) to support the rollout of fibre broadband connections and future 5G mobile technology.” This intention was included in the new industrial strategy proposals (green paper) unveiled by the UK Prime Minister.
It is important to note that the industrial strategy paper references investment in 5G together with fibre broadband rollout, as part of a “coordinated programme of integrated 5G and fibre projects.” While fibre is regarded as a key enabler for 5G and future mobile networks, there are a number of additional areas where the government’s involvement could prove valuable too (note: some of these areas may already receive direct/indirect funding from the Treasury).
Taking the initiative
Similar to 5G initiatives in other countries, which aspire to lead the way and maximise the benefits from deploying new technologies, the UK government could facilitate real-world trials in selected UK locations. UK operators and major vendors would be invited to participate and contribute – know-how, equipment and/or budget – to these 5G trials, says Dr. Konstantinos Stavropoulos of Amdocs Open Network.
The significance of academic research should not be overlooked either. While such research may not always produce short-term results, it is essential for the UK to invest in intellectual property creation and in building up expertise that could lead to ground-breaking inventions. In effect, this is not just about 5G, but about the converged (wireless and wireline) network of the future and how it affects the way we live.
Countries (and technologies) working together
This does not mean that the UK should snub strategic partnerships and collaboration with other countries. Making use of lessons learned and sharing the results of own research efforts can accelerate new technology development.
Similarly, 5G enablers and areas adjacent to 5G – such as network virtualisation, analytics and artificial intelligence or the current/evolving 4G and Wi-Fi infrastructure – should be seen in the larger context of supporting 5G use cases. Indeed, 5G relies on a diversity of exciting technical concepts, which are not 5G specific, and will have to coexist with 4G and Wi-Fi for many years to come.
Prioritising the high-interest/impact use cases
In addition to technology-focused research projects, it is crucial for the government to prioritise the 5G use cases of highest interest to UK citizens, and expected to impact the UK economy the most.
For example, an industry vertical of immense interest would be health. With cost pressure rising year on year, 5G could potentially transform the healthcare sector and improve the quality of health services in the UK. The 5G relevance to businesses, transport efficiency, public safety, and security would also be likely to top the government’s use cases agenda.
Smart spectrum management
The UK government has the principal and vital role when it comes to spectrum, the lifeblood of wireless communication. Few would argue against the need for an updated model of spectrum availability, regulation and overall management.
To accelerate the rollout of 5G where it makes business sense, the government should facilitate trials on relevant spectrum bands. It should also look into alternative methods of licensing and utilisation to keep the cost of spectrum as low as possible and make early investment in 5G more appealing.
Such methods, including spectral efficiency criteria or the contentious concept of dynamic spectrum sharing instead of exclusivity, may well transform the current landscape. In other words, the government could invest in testing and creating a novel spectrum management framework that suits the UK needs.
Building upon a solid business case
Similar to countries that have benefited from technology and are now embracing 5G, the UK government should follow an investment strategy undistracted by the usual hype and built upon a solid business case, with a single aim: how to ultimately benefit the UK citizens.
The author of this blog is Dr. Konstantinos Stavropoulos of Amdocs Open Network
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