• Another nine projects added to the state‑backed funding call.
  • BT/EE, O2, and Three support AR, broadcasting, and logistics use‑cases.
  • Emerging players take lead roles.

5G Create: UK MNOs left with bit parts

5G Create: UK MNOs left with bit parts

Source: Artue Tumasjan / Unsplash

The second cohort of winners were confirmed for the 5G Create funding call, handing nine projects a total of £15.2m (€17.2m) in UK government money, bolstered with £13.1m from partners and the private sector.

5G Create is a component of the Department for Digital, Media, Culture & Sport’s (DCMS) innovation initiative to support next‑generation technology across a number of categories, for testing and implementation within the UK. Specifically, the programme is designed to leverage 5G within use‑cases that “boost productivity, grow existing businesses, or spark new ones”. This cast the net much wider than previous calls, which focused more narrowly on establishing 5G testbeds, or developing rural‑ or industrial‑focused use‑cases.

The latest projects, announced in January 2021, join seven selected since August 2020.

As in previous funding rounds, local government and universities feature prominently, underpinned by emerging technology providers, with mobile network operators (MNOs) playing only bit parts.

In a change from previous funding rounds, five projects were highlighted for incorporating open RAN: 5G AMC2, 5G Logistics, Connected Cowes, Eden Universe, and Live & Wild. This comes amidst efforts to advance the government’s 5G Diversification Strategy to increase vendor diversity and oust so‑called ‘high‑risk vendors’ (namely, Huawei Technologies, BTwatch, #318).

Leeds‑based aql group, already involved in Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY — a Rural Connected Communities project) and 5G Festival of the Future (5G FoF — from 5G Create’s first cohort), trumpeted participation in a further three 5G Create initiatives, saying it will provide the 5G delivery component for the Connected Cowes, Eden Universe, and Live & Wild projects. aql’s Chief Executive and co‑founder Adam Beaumont is himself well connected as a Trustee of the Eden Project and a member of UK5G’s Advisory Board.

A full run‑down of the 5G Create‑funded projects is available here, and all the 5G Testbeds & Trials projects are here.

MK dons 5G badge — BT

BT will continue its 5G activity in Milton Keynes with the MK 5G Create project, led by the town’s council. Based at Stadium MK, home of the MK Dons football club, the project will trial solutions for logistics, security, and surveillance. Speaking to specialist outlet Cities Today, the council’s Head of Transportation Innovation Brian Matthews shared an “ambition” to launch an autonomous passenger shuttle, running a route between the stadium and the railway station, to showcase 5G‑enablement on public and private roads.

The project builds on existing trials headed by the Milton Keynes Council under the MK:5G — Connecting Communities banner. In April 2020, BT and fellow participant CityFibre were part of the winning consortium in bid to trial a 5G network in the city, with Huawei and the locally-based Open University also involved.

GrEEn planet — EE

The Green Planet AR project is developing an augmented reality (AR)‑based mobile app leveraging 5G to create an immersive virtual experience. Led by AR specialist Factory 42, it is backed by EE and will involve a holographic video of naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough. London’s Kew Gardens will also be turned into a testbed, with 5G equipment available for public hire to experience the app. For its part, EE will “deploy its 5G network and edge computing”, with its public network enabling the app to be available at “set locations” around the UK.

Vista goes online — O2

Telefónica UK (O2 UK) partnered with project lead Digital TV Group on Project Vista, which aims to leverage 5G networks to provide live coverage of sporting events using “further‑evolved multimedia broadcast & multicast service” (FeMBMS). Also involved are Digital Catapult, Global Wireless Solutions, and Rohde & Schwarz. The technology takes a single stream and broadcasts it to multiple users, ostensibly reducing bandwidth and processing requirements. It also enables broadcast of multiple angles of an event in high‑definition, with interactive elements. The project aims to complete three ‘phases’:

  • Trial at the Digital Catapult lab in London.
  • Demonstration at an O2‑branded venue;
  • Pending success of the preceding two phases, a live sports event demonstration at O2‑sponsored Twickenham Stadium, tentatively scheduled for between November 2021 and February 2022.
5G Create — second cohort, January 2021
Project / TimeframeFocusMNO participationKey participants (lead in bold)Funding

Note: * Hutchison Ports (owner of the Port of Felixstowe) and Three UK are both ultimately owned by CK Hutchison Holdings Limited.

Source: DCMS.

5G AMC2 (Accelerate, Maximise, and Create for Construction)

February 2021–March 2022

Testing 5G‑enabled data management systems to maximise construction industry efficiencies.

  • AttoCore
  • BAM Nuttall
  • Building Research Establishment

£0.8m

5G Logistics

February 2021–March 2022

Security, traceability, and tracking of goods within extendable virtual boundaries, and between public and private networks.

  • ADVA
  • Airspan Communications
  • AttoCore
  • Bristol City Council
  • Bristol Port Company
  • Cellnex Connectivity Solutions
  • Davies Turner & Co
  • Maritime Transport
  • This is Gravity
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cardiff
  • Unmanned Systems
  • West of England Combined Authority

£3.1m

5G Ports

February 2021–March 2022

Deployment of a 5G standalone network at the Port of Felixstowe, to run alongside an existing Three UK 4G network. Automation, logistics, and predictive maintenance are among the use‑cases.

Three UK

  • Blue Mesh Solutions
  • Cambridge University
  • Hutchison Ports *
  • Three UK *

£1.6m

Connected Cowes

February 2021–March 2022

5G deployment in the Solent strait to enable real‑time remote viewing and VR experiences during the Cowes Week yacht racing event.

  • 1851 Trust
  • aql
  • Cowes Week

£0.8m

Eden Universe

February 2021–March 2022

Use of AR/VR to create enhanced experiences for Eden Project visitors and online.

  • aql
  • The Eden Project
  • Marshmallow Laser Feast
  • Meta

£1.7m

The Green Planet AR

February 2021–March 2022

Creation of The Green Planet AR app, which will combine AR/VR and volumetric video to create an educational mobile experience.

BT Consumer (EE)

  • BBC
  • Dimension Studios
  • EE
  • Factory 42
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
  • Talesmith

£2.3m

Live & Wild

February 2021–March 2022

Testing of network resilience by leveraging 5G‑enabled filming on a mobile, vehicle‑mounted base station.

  • aql
  • Candour Productions
  • MTN Safety

£1.2m

MK5G Create (Milton Keynes 5G)

February 2021–March 2022

5G testing at Stadium MK to include trials of autonomous shuttles, surveillance, and robotics.

BT Group

  • AppyWay
  • BT
  • CityFibre
  • Imperium Drive
  • Metaswitch Networks
  • Milton Keynes Council
  • MK Dons FC
  • Neutral Wireless

£2.4m

Project Vista (Video and Stadia Technical Architecture)

February 2021–March 2022

Live sporting event coverage based on FeMBMS technology.

O2 UK

  • Digital Catapult
  • Digital TV Group
  • Global Wireless Solutions
  • O2 UK
  • Rohde & Schwartz

£1.3m

Total

     

£15.2m