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UK's £70m 5G testbed to go live next year

The University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre will put emerging mobile technologies through their paces.

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Image: University of Surrey

The UK should have a working testbed for 5G technologies early next year.

The testbed will be part of the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC), which is set to open its doors in late April 2015. The £70m facility, whose industry partners include Vodafone, Samsung, BT and EE, aims to conduct research into fifth-generation mobile networks, generate intellectual property, and influence the standard.

Construction of the testbed will be a three-stage process, and is expected to be complete by next September. The testbed will include both indoor and outdoor environments across  the university campus, near Guildford. Both staff and students will be able to use its experimental 5G network.

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While there is no 5G standard as yet, there is an emerging consensus around what fifth-generation networks should deliver: latency of under 1ms, speeds in the range of multi-gigabits, increased energy efficiency and support for emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things and autonomous cars.

Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone's head of R&D, said the facility will be a "real focal point for 5G activity in the UK". He added it will allow the mobile operator to "validate some emerging ideas around 5G" and test out "revolutionary and novel concepts" before the standard is released.

Early versions of the 5G standard are expected to be published in 2016 and 2017, and the 5GIC hopes to use the facility for 5G tech demonstrations by 2018. 5G networks are predicted to be made commercially available from 2020, though pre-standard networks may be launched in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The 5GIC itself will open in January next year, playing home to 100 PhD students and 150 researchers.

Ahead of the 5GIC launch, the university has already conducted research into energy harvesting techniques and ways of improving user experience at the cell edge - and claims to have achieved wireless transmission speeds of up to 0.8Tbps.

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