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£16m investment will create new 5G Hub partnership linking three universities' test beds

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, holding a sensor, with Sam Gunner, Smart Internet Lab researcher

Press release issued: 7 July 2017

Three sites in the UK will be linked up via 5G test beds for the first time thanks to £16m investment from the Government. The funding, announced by Minister for Digital Matt Hancock today, will bring three leading universities together for the development of the world's first trials of end-to-end 5G system.

Three sites in the UK will be linked up via 5G test beds for the first time thanks to £16m investment from the Government.

The funding, announced by Minister for Digital Matt Hancock today, will bring three leading universities together for the development of the world’s first trials of end-to-end 5G system.

The investment will fund leading edge technological developments at each of the three universities, linking all three sites through cutting edge design and research, and will see all three work in partnership to keep the UK at the forefront of 5G technology development.

Bristol University will deploy 5G capability in the extensive Smart City and Smart Campus test beds in the city, targeting full 5G and fibre infrastructure convergence. Bristol will also contribute to the key Software Defined Network technologies for end-to-end 5G service delivery. Public demonstrators will be the focus of delivery, targeting media, gaming and transport applications.

King’s College London is driving the vision for ultra-low latency 5G tactile internet developments with Internet of Skills applications. Through the King’s College London 5G Tactile Internet Lab, the university is also pioneering several important 5G co-design approaches with various industries, including smart cities, smart transport, performing arts and health. 

The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) will lead the project and develop 5G radio technologies and a fully virtualised mobile core network at 3.5GHz and 700 MHz frequency bands for enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC).

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said:

“We want to be at the head of the field in 5G. This funding will support the pioneering research needed to ensure we can harness the potential of this technology to spark innovation, create new jobs and boost the economy.

“We know 5G has the potential to bring more reliable, ultrafast mobile connectivity, with quicker reaction times and larger data capabilities, and I’m thrilled to announce King’s College London and the universities of Surrey and Bristol have agreed to collaborate on this project.”

The 5G Hub will be integrated at the system level and connected across the three university sites. It will build sufficient capability and capacity for further nationwide test and trials of 5G technologies and advanced applications.  

The initial end-to-end testing will be carried out early next year across the three Universities’ sites. It will be ready for connection of external test beds and applications across the UK. An important aspect of the 5G Hub will be the test bed, which will develop innovative solutions for the operation and management of 5G networks with new levels of efficiency and resilience.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol and Chief Scientific Officer for Bristol Is Open, said: “University of Bristol has an international reputation for research on telecommunications and has recently demonstrated pioneering research on 5G technologies and networks. This exciting new partnership and investment will leverage the University’s plans for investment in Smart City infrastructure and the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, which aims to create more opportunities for the region’s businesses and citizens.”

Professor Mischa Dohler, Head of the Centre for Telecommunications Research at King’s, said: “King’s is a university within an international community that serves the world and through this alliance we will continue to research to inform and innovate as we carry out world-leading and outward-looking research focused on meeting societal need. 

“We’re delighted to be part of this unique partnership, which allows us to make substantial contributions to the UK and global 5G innovation ecosystem which otherwise would not have been possible. This activity is part of a major expansion of our engineering and business activities on our Strand Campus, enabled by the acquisition of Bush House, the former headquarters of the BBC World Service.” 

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Director of the 5GIC at the University of Surrey, said: “As the Hub leader from 5GIC at the University of Surrey, it is really exciting to be collaborating with our colleagues to develop this national asset that can mobilise intense testing and trials for mobile broadband as well as other applications such as connected and autonomous cars, new games, connected health and many more applications. We already have a proven track record of developing, trialling and testing 5G technology here at the 5GIC, and this will see us grow that across the country to further develop and realise the end-to-end 5G.

“The test bed will benefit the UK’s 5G ecosystem by enabling trials of secure, interoperable technology and services, hardened against cyber-attack.”

The 5G Hub will be the foundation to create and support projects in multiple areas, such as connected cars and autonomous driving, Industry 4.0, Health and many others, addressing major socio-economic and productivity challenges.

The 5G Hub will use collaborative partnership of working between the three Universities to develop the described 5G capabilities, but ready for expansion to include other organisations from next year onwards. 

Further information

In year one, internal test use cases will be used to validate the end-to-end 5G network, interfaces and capability in a controlled environment across the three University sites. The internal use cases will also be used to validate test bed external interfaces, thus preparing the test bed to connect to other external projects  and test beds from year two onwards (2018).

The 5G Hub will use a federated model of working between the three Universities to develop the described 5G capabilities, but ready for expansion to include other organisations from 2018 onwards. This newly formed national asset for 5G innovation and testing will deliver the following objectives and outcomes in year one: creating end-to-end test bed, distributed across the three University sites; demonstrating end-to-end system performance at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, 2018 and local showcases. The main aim is to become ready for nationwide connectivity and testing and trials in 2018.

About the 5G Innovation Centre
The University of Surrey hosts the £80million 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC), which is the largest UK academic research centre dedicated to the development of the next generation of mobile and wireless communications. It brings together leading academic expertise and key industry partners and has had more than £68 million co-investment from the centre’s industry and regional partners, including the EM3 Local Enterprise Partnership.

About the King’s College London Ericsson 5G Tactile Internet lab 
The joint 5G Tactile Internet lab between Centre for Telecommunications Research and Ericsson was launched in February 2016. Focusing on the ‘tactile’ or ‘haptic’ internet, work in the lab centres around using the internet to enable remote physical interactions, which will be a key feature of the Internet of Things or Skills. The 5G Tactile Internet Lab builds on wider research activities at King’s and partners including Transport for London, The Cinema Arts Network and Guys Hospital. Based in the Faculty of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, the lab delivers work crossing the traditional subject boundaries, creating cutting-edge research in non-traditional disciplines that contribute towards King’s broad subject base. 

About the Smart Internet Lab
The Smart Internet Labis a hub for internet research which addresses grand societal and industrial challenges. With more than 200 experts and advanced laboratory infrastructure, we perform cutting edge research on optical and wireless communications.  We offer a unique holistic approach to hardware and software co-design solving critical problems in the global internet evolution. Our innovative research on end-to-end, wired-wireless network design and optimization is pushing the boundaries of digital living and communications. Our exceptional track record for performing 5G research with specific focus on fibre and 5G convergence is evidenced by significant funding from the UK Government, EU and industry (e.g. EPSRC TOUCAN, INITIATE, NDFIS, EU: 5G-Xhaul, 5GPICTURE, mmMAGIC, FUTEBOL, FLAME and 5GinFIRE).  

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