Osborne Outlines UK Push for 5G

Chancellor George Osborne outlines strategy to stay ahead

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, committed the UK government to an active role in the development of next-generation networks in his Budget speech yesterday, dealing with the IoT, driverless technology and spectrum.

“This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything”

Whilst not mentioning 5G specifically, he claimed: ‘We’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.’

5G, being a key enabler of the IoT, is therefore evidently high on Britain’s agenda in terms of technological innovation. With Europe having been notoriously left behind in the 4G race, the government is hoping to facilitate research, a priority already displayed by the provision of funding to the 5GIC at the University of Surrey.

Osborne’s example of someone controlling two fridges in two separate kitchens was certainly a dig at Ed Miliband rather than the most inspiring justification for the investment but he made his point nonetheless, emphasising that ‘all these industries depend on fast broadband’ – which will eventually be the low-latency 5G network.

“investing £100 million to stay ahead in the race to driverless technology”

A more exciting, albeit commonly used, use case for 5G is driverless cars – and Osborne also prioritised involvement in this department. ‘We’re going to back our brilliant automotive industry,’ he said, ‘by investing £100 million to stay ahead in the race to driverless technology.’

Driverless cars are already being prototyped in Milton Keynes and London Mayor Boris Johnson has made it clear in the past that he wants to bring the technology to London as soon as possible. However, investment needs to be made in city networks rather than simply the vehicles themselves if they are to integrate effectively.

“We’ll use up to £600 million to clear new spectrum bands”

One of the potential stumbling blocks mooted for 5G has been spectrum availability, which Osborne looked to address. ‘We’ll use up to £600 million to clear new spectrum bands for further auction, so we improve mobile networks,’ he said. There was no further detail on which bands the Goverment has in mind, although as it is already committed to portioning part of the 700MHz band to mobile broadband, this looks like a commitment to find bands at higher frequencies, which will be of particular note in terms of 5G.

In terms of intention, it seemed a positive budget for those involved in 5G in the UK  as Osborne’s ‘comprehensive strategy so we stay ahead’ showed that the government is aware of the importance of the network. What is needed, of course, is action to follow up the intention.

Telecoms industry analyst, Morgan Mullooly of Analysys Mason, who focuses on the IoT, reiterated this need. He wrote in a reaction note to the Budget speech: ‘Proper investment now in the telecoms, ICT and start-ups ecosystem underlying the smart cities concept will have many positive knock-on effects for Britain’s city dwellers in the future.’

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