UK Govt pledges £40m for manufacturing 5G trials

Posted on 18 Jun 2019 by Maddy White

5G’s promises of high-speed network communication have grabbed our attention, but mostly as it relates to our own smartphones. Will the industrial testing of this technology help get the manufacturing 5G snowball rolling?

“5G is about more than mobile phone consumers having a fast and reliable connection anywhere in the country,” said digital secretary, Jeremy Wright, speaking at the 5G World Conference, in London. “It’s a vital piece of technology that can be used to improve the productivity and growth of our industrial sectors.”

“That’s why we’re excited to develop new trials in areas such as manufacturing and logistics that can really benefit from 5G,” he added.

5G will be up to ten times faster than 4G - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
5G will be up to ten times faster than 4G – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

A next-gen rollout

Investment in 5G testbeds and trials have previously driven work in other sectors like transport and healthcare. But, the latest round of 5G funding will support work and growth within manufacturing, and boost industrial development and efficiencies.

According to the announcement, the funding will be accessed through the government’s £200m project to test the tech.

Lorraine During, business environment policy adviser at Make UK, told The Manufacturer how important a good connection is for manufacturing: “As more and more data is generated within businesses, the demand for a sufficient internet structure to communicate and maintain this data has increased.”

To process this information, she adds, 5G will need to be deployed effectively across the country.

However, During added that the “UK already ranks far below other comparable countries in terms of fibre broadband rollout, and the danger is that slow rollout of 5G will hinder the UK’s potential on this metric too.

“This would prolong the development of the digital infrastructure that manufacturers so vitally need to implement 4IR adoption effectively,” she added.

Factories need 5G

The latest in cellular networks is said to be up to ten times faster than 4G and able to support more than a million devices per square kilometre.

Vector isometric factory - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
A better connectivity for factories will mean higher data speeds – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

“As part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we’re making sure that Britain has a telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future,” Wright added.

The trials will cover different manufacturing sectors as well as across road, air, and sea-based freight logistics.

The funding comes hot on the heels of a recent report from Capgemini, which found that two-thirds of industrial firms are planning to deploy the network within the first two years of its availability.

However, despite this eagerness to move quickly, telecom players will need three years, at the very least, to roll out all the features 5G has to offer.

The combination of speed and security is encouraging manufacturing leaders to test and onboard the network quickly. And in terms of productivity, it would enable many more sensors and IoT devices to be installed at facilities, gathering massive amounts of data in real-time to be digested.

Manufacturers want a 5G rollout and it’s also important this happens for them to stay competitive. However, the technology is essentially an infrastructure, meaning it needs to be tested thoroughly, something these trials must crucially aid.