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UK to be 5G testbed as Samsung, Huawei and Telefonica start research push

The UK will play host to a new research facility focusing on 5G technology in a bid to put right the missteps that have dogged the introduction of 4G services in the country.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

A new centre focused on researching 5G technology is to be established at the University of Surrey.


The centre will receive £35m in funding, with contributions coming from both private companies and the public sector. £11m of the money will come from the public purse via the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) and the remaining £24m will be provided by a consortium of companies including Huawei, Fujitsu Labs Europe, Telefonica Europe (O2's parent company), Rohde & Schwarz, and Aircom International.

The cash will be used to establish the centre, and fund research and innovation around the fifth-generation wireless technology.

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, head of the University of Surrey's Centre for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), said the rate at which mobile data use is increasing will necessitate work being done on 5G well in advance of deployment. He added that it could also bring significant economic benefits to businesses and the country as a whole.

"There are massive challenges and opportunities facing the sector," Tafazolli said in a statement on Monday.

"'The growth in the number of new applications running on the networks is accelerating, as ever more mobile devices become the preferred route for internet access. Such unprecedented data traffic growth requires the urgent introduction of new 5G advanced technologies that maximise the use of the limited available radio spectrum and provide for greener technologies and solutions," he added.

A long way off

While the potential payoff from early research into 5G would be a boon for the UK, its introduction is still a very long way off. So nascent is the technology that a technical definition of the term 5G still does not exist among industry bodies such as the ITU (International Telecommunications Union).

Even an initial introduction is unlikely to take place until around 2020. ZDNet understands that the UK's 700MHz spectrum, which is currently used for Freeview digital television, is being assessed for potential 5G usage in the future, in order to harmonise with European and US bands for mobile data usage.

"Although the UK played an active role in the creation of 2G (GSM) cellular standards, it has increasingly fallen behind in succeeding generations of 3G and 4G standards," Tafazolli said. "The university's industry partners have identified this proposal as the single biggest opportunity for the UK to regain a world leading position in the development of 5G technologies and for the development of vibrant businesses around the technologies."

EE is the only company in the UK on the edge of launching its own 4G network in the country, which should go live at the end of October. Rival operators will need to wait for the 800MHz spectrum (currently being used for analogue television) to be cleared before they can roll out their own offerings, which should happen around May 2013.

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