£28 million to trial innovative new uses of 5G to improve people’s lives

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  • Government-funded test projects include improving fan experiences at O2 arena and MK Dons stadium, trialing 5G-powered cargo ports and boosting tourism sites such as the Eden Project

  • One scheme will see Sir David Attenborough take to 5G to show people the wonders of the natural world through modern technology

  • More than half of the projects will use new Open RAN technology as the government drives greater diversification in the 5G supply chain

Sir David Attenborough will take to 5G for the first time to show people the wonders of the natural world, as part of a government-funded trial to explore the potential of 5G to improve people’s lives and help build back better from the pandemic.

A new augmented reality app, to be released alongside upcoming BBC series The Green Planet, will see users stream high resolution ‘holographic’ video of Sir David as meticulously detailed graphics of exotic plants and animals adorn their surroundings.

Developed by a consortium of leading creative and technology firms, including EE and London-based immersive content studio Factory 42, the app will highlight the possibilities of 5G to new audiences and show other creative and technology firms how the ultrafast network can handle data-intensive immersive content. It will also get people engaged with nature and wildlife.

It is one of nine projects to receive funding as part of a £28.3 million joint investment between government and businesses to test how the country can seize the full benefits of 5G and help British industries capitalise on the power of modern technology.

Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, said:

5G is about so much more than faster mobile internet speeds so we’re investing millions to help some of Britain’s brightest innovators explore the huge potential of the technology to improve and enrich our lives.

The projects we’ve selected will demonstrate how the blistering speeds of 5G can put some rocket fuel in our economy and help businesses bounce back from the pandemic.

On the Sir David Attenborough fronted app Warman added:

5G Create is about exploring new and inventive ways we can use 5G to give British industries a competitive advantage. This cutting-edge app, fronted by broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough, is set to be an inspiring example of how new technology can reconnect us with the natural world whilst demonstrating the power of 5G to a huge new audience.

5G will be put to use in some of Britain’s biggest venues. In London, O2’s Project Vista will explore how it can provide instant, multi-angle replays via smartphones during stadium events. The MK Stadium, home to Milton Keynes Dons FC, will be kitted out with driverless taxis, smart parking management and robots to help the site run more efficiently and enhance experiences for spectators and staff.

Award-winning Leeds-based TV production company Candour TV will test 5G’s ability to broadcast high quality live content and transfer huge video files from a variety of remote locations, extreme terrains and weather conditions. Filmed activities will include caving in the Yorkshire Dales, sea cliff climbing in North Wales and ultra-running across Britain.

This capability, if proven, could see 5G becoming a standard for the film production industry in the UK – not just in TV production but could also hugely benefit social media content creators, outdoor events companies, music and performance festivals and many others.

To support the tourism sector, the Eden Project in Cornwall will explore how 5G and 360 degree video can enhance the visitor experience and allow anyone to enjoy the exhibits and talks. On the Isle of Wight people will be encouraged to take up yacht racing using immersive virtual reality experiences in a bid to explore use-cases for the sports’ industry.

In a boost to Global Britain, the funding will help improve operations at ports. 5G-powered yard cranes will aim to improve productivity at the Port of Felixstowe while at Bristol Port 5G will enable the real-time tracking of movement of goods. This is part of the Government’s push to harness tech to turbocharge our future as an independent trading nation.

Trials will also explore how 5G can support the construction industry: testing 5G-powered cameras, drones and sensors at BAM Nuttall’s construction sites in Kilsyth, Glasgow and Shetland.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:

The UK Government is funding 5G innovation trials to help Scottish industry harness the opportunities and possibilities 5G offers.

5G is an exciting technology, with higher connection speeds and capacity having potential to enable the use of innovate technology, transforming industry.

I’m delighted this significant UK Government investment is funding such an important project in Scotland.

5G Create is part of the government’s £200 million investment in testbeds and trials across the UK to explore new ways that 5G can boost productivity, grow existing businesses or spark new ones. In the competition’s second round, DCMS has provided £15.2 million to be shared across the nine projects with the remaining £13.1 million coming from project partners.

Five of the projects will also test out the technical possibilities of Open RAN – an alternative way of building telecoms networks that allows for greater interoperability of radio equipment between vendors and will give operators more choice and flexibility as they roll out 5G infrastructure.

The adoption of Open RAN forms a key element of the government’s 5G Diversification Strategy which aims to boost diversity, competition and security in the digital infrastructure supply chain.

ENDS

Notes to editors

5G Create was an open competition set up to explore the potential for 5G in a wide range of sectors. It aims to explore and develop new 5G use-cases and demonstrate sustainability after government funding finishes. It took place across two windows. DCMS announced the first six winners on 31 July and is now announcing nine winners from the second window.

Subject to grant funding agreements and due diligence, DCMS will co-fund 9 new projects (bringing the total to 15 5G Create projects) from a range of sectors including: tourism, sport, logistics, transport, creative industries and construction.

More information on the projects

Milton Keynes 5G (MK5G)

Government funding: £2,397,243 Total project value: £4,103,022 Location: South East, Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes Council and its partners will test out 5G applications at Stadium MK, home of MK Dons, to illustrate how it can empower other major venues to boost efficiency and create better experiences for visitors and staff in the future. The trials will include using driverless shuttles and road vehicles for moving people and goods across the site, autonomous surveillance vehicles and drones for enhancing security, and testing out robots and drones for goods delivery and hospitality use.

John Cove, Director, MK Dons said: “We are delighted that the MK5G Create project has been selected to receive support from DCMS. We have been able to bring together a world class team to integrate and exploit 5G capability in a dynamic real world environment – this will truly demonstrate how Stadium MK home of MK Dons, working with MK council and our partners can use new technology to support a major international sporting and cultural venue.”

Eden Universe (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £1,662,881 Total project value: £ 3,338,333 Location: South West, South Cornwall

The Eden Project in Cornwall will explore how 5G and 360 degree video cameras can enhance the visitor experience. Those who are unable to go to the Eden site in person will be able to experience the exhibits and talks from their home, care home, school or anywhere in the world via a desktop, mobile or virtual reality device and be taken on a real-time virtual reality tour.

The local 5G infrastructure will also be used to provide real-time data on core services such as energy and water management. The data will be fed into Eden’s site management systems to ensure its rich collection of plant life remains in good condition.

Dan James, the Eden Project’s Development Director, said: “The Eden Project is delighted to have secured support from 5G Create. Eden is a visually rich and wonderful place to be, so having this new technology on our Cornwall site and the opportunity to create new digital content with our project partners aql, Meta and Marshmallow Laser Feast is very exciting.

“We are looking forward to testing just how 5G can help support our educational, arts and community programmes and provide new and exciting reasons for people to keep visiting us in person or virtually. The data collected through the 5G network will also help us manage the site and improve the visitor experience and our environmental performance.”

Connected Cowes (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £826,915 Total project value: £ 1,654,389 Location: South East, Isle of Wight

The Connected Cowes project is looking at how 5G technology can create an immersive yacht racing experience for the sailing community and spectators in Cowes and online, and to widen the audience and appeal of the sport.

5G technology will be used to stream real-time virtual reality video from on-board yachts racing at events from Cowes across multiple classes throughout the summer. This will be used to create engaging content and enable an immersive teaching experience using 5G-powered VR as a gateway to the sport.

Laurence Mead, Regatta Director at Cowes Week said: “We are thrilled to be able to take sailing into a new age. It’s such a diverse and inclusive sport and we can’t wait to be able to bring it out of the water and onto the internet via 5G.

“This funding is going to enable us to showcase world-beating, non-stadium sports coverage. Our event takes place over 20 square miles of water and will test 5G to the limit.”

5G AMC 2 (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £846,365 Total project value: £ 1,692,733 Location: Scotland, Shetland and Kilsyth

5G AMC 2 (Accelerate, Maximise and Create for Construction) seeks to explore how 5G can enable the use of data to maximise productivity of construction processes. The project will set up a private 5G network at construction firm BAM Nuttall’s regional office in Kilsyth, Scotland and a construction project in Shetland, using cameras, drones, mixed reality and IoT sensors to monitor construction process and track assets.

The project will be an enabler for digital solutions that improve construction productivity within BAM Nuttall and the wider UK construction industry. Additionally, it will help grow UK technical capability in the field of 5G. It will be delivered by a consortium led by BAM Nuttall partnered with AttoCore and Building Research Establishment.

Colin Evison, Head of Innovation at BAM Nuttall said: “We are really excited to join the 5G Create programme and have the opportunity to further develop our digital capability that will help us in our mission to build sustainable environments that enhance people’s lives. We believe the project outcomes will benefit our business and the wider construction industry in its drive to improve productivity.”

Live and Wild: Filming with 5G (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £1,224,834 Total project value: £ 2,136,420 Location: North East, Leeds

Live & Wild: Filming with 5G presents a series of real and challenging filming scenarios to test 5G’s capacity to support the needs of the documentary film industry in the UK. Filming will take place in a variety of extreme locations and weather conditions across the UK designed to test 5G’s performance to its limit including, caving in the Yorkshire Dales, sea cliff climbing in North Wales and ultra-running across Britain.

The project will monitor 5G’s resilience, adaptability, reliability and image quality as it livestreams high end video content. It will also monitor transfer time and performance of raw batch footage sent directly from remote film locations back to the post-production hub.

Patricia Doherty, Project Director at Candour TV said: “We are really looking forward to discovering the ways in which 5G can help us deliver fast-turnaround and live video content without compromising on high production values. This could be a game changer for the UK film industry.”

Project Vista

Government funding: £1,307,972 Total project value: £2,334,844 Location: London

This project will take full advantage of 5G to deliver new and exciting in-stadium digital experiences. The project will deliver next generation viewing experiences for event spectators by providing live multi-angle HD video streams and interactive content from the event direct to devices in stadia and across the UK. The end goal is to demonstrate consumer demand and deliver the business case to enable 5G-powered sporting events in the near future. The consortium is led by Members Association DTG (Digital TV Group) working in partnership with Digital Catapult, GWS, O2 Telefonica and Rohde & Schwarz.

Brendan O’Reilly, CTO at O2 Telefonica said: “We are excited to play our part in the development of this groundbreaking initiative, working with industry specialists to create something innovative and exciting that will not only enhance our customers’ experience at events, but add a whole new and exciting dimension to live sports.”

The Green Planet AR

Government funding: £2,275,498 Total project value: £4,409,162 Location: London & South West

The project will demonstrate additional ways that 5G benefits the public by creating a groundbreaking and entertaining augmented reality (AR) app for mobile phones. This unique immersive experience will offer an exciting new way for audiences of all ages to learn more about the natural world by streaming scientifically accurate plants and creatures streamed into a number of set locations around the UK. The consortium is led by immersive content company Factory 42 working in partnership with BBC Studios, EE, Talesmith, Dimension Studios and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

John Cassy, Founder and CEO of Factory 42 said:

“The importance of protecting the planet has never been greater and the opportunity to use emerging technologies to engage audiences of all ages in environmental issues in new ways is hugely exciting. We’re delighted to have pulled together a unique consortium of world leading organisations and look forward to showing how 5G networks will enhance our everyday lives and our understanding of the world around us.”

5G Ports – Port of Felixstowe

Government funding: £1,634,590 Total project value: £ 3,405,776 Location: East, Suffolk Coastal

Working with its partners Three UK, Cambridge University and Blue Mesh Solutions, along with key subcontractors Ericsson and Siemens, the project will test the potential of 5G across two use cases: enabling remote-controlled cranes via the transmission of CCTV and deploying internet of things sensors and artificial intelligence to optimise the predictive maintenance cycle of Felixstowe’s 31 quay-side and 82 yard cranes. Harnessing the speed, low-latency and high-capacity of 5G, the project will demonstrate the productivity and efficiency gains of such technology, whilst reducing unplanned outage.

Clemence Cheng, Managing Director at Hutchison Ports Europe said: “We are delighted to work in partnership with our sister company, 3UK, Cambridge University and Bluemesh Solutions, on this exciting 5G Create programme. Being the first UK port to introduce 5G technology will allow the Port of Felixstowe to deploy innovative technologies to boost efficiency and improve safety for our workforce. It ties in well with government policy to create a network of Freeports to act as hotbeds for innovation and to act as hubs for global trade.”

5G Logistics (OpenRAN)

Government funding: £3,054,994 Total project value: £ 5,268,708 Location: South West, Bristol

The West of England Combined Authority’s 5G Logistics project programme will develop 5G products and services to support operations at Bristol Port and Gravity Smart Campus and demonstrate a smart and dynamic port environment. The project will focus on security, traceability, and tracking of goods within and across extendable virtual boundaries – and between public and private networks.

It will demonstrate how efficiency and productivity could be improved by replacing existing manual scanned barcode identification with automated recognition and real-time location tracking of items within a 5G Internet of Things environment. The project offers the potential for such advances in technology to be implemented industry-wide; including at other ports in the UK, Enterprise Zones or other business parks.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “5G has the potential to revolutionise whole industries and economies, creating exciting new jobs and opportunities. I want the West of England to be at the forefront of this revolution. We have already led one successful trial and I’m thrilled that our plan to demonstrate how a smart and secure port could operate using the Internet of Things has been approved for funding by the Government. Backing innovation and the jobs of the future and bringing new investment to the region by securing a Freeport are key parts of our plan for economic recovery, so this is a big vote of confidence in the West of England.”

Ports, technology and freeports – further information

The government wants technology to form part of its wider strategy for the border, which will establish resilient ‘ports of the future’ at border crossing points to make the experience smoother and more secure for travellers and traders, while better protecting the public and environment.

The Government consulted publicly on the UK’s future border strategy over the summer, seeking views on how we can make the UK’s border the most effective in the world. The opportunities presented by a technology-enabled border was a major theme of the responses and it is clear the UK must seize these opportunities if we are to realise our ambitious vision for the border.

The government has published the 2025 Border Strategy which sets out how we will work in partnership with Industry to create a technology-enabled border. The strategy sets out a Technology Roadmap that will show how we will enable and support border innovation as part of our border transformation plan.  

Technology can play an important role in making freeports as accessible as possible for traders. The government recognises the benefits of making best use of technology in freeports and welcomes bidders’ view on how they can utilise it to deliver freeport objectives. These will be assessed in due course via a fair and transparent bidding process.

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