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UK targets 5G leadership, commercial availability by 2020

MP David Willets speaks at the 5G Huddle event in London

5G will be commercially available by 2020, industry executives and government representatives from Europe, North America and Asia were told at the 5G Huddle event in London, attended by Telecoms.com.

The event, organised by Wireless World Research Forum (WWRF) together with industry lobby group techUK*, heard from a number speakers, Deputy Head of Telecommunications Policy UK, Simon Towler, who was one the presenters giving the prediction.

Other speakers included ITU Secretary General, Hamadoun Toure, who sent his message via a video presentation, stating that for successful implementation, 5G needs to integrate with existing technologies, including LTE.

The Internet of Things (IoT) emerged as one of the key topics, among others such as spectrum availability, security, privacy, regulation and competition. “We shouldn’t spend too much time on defining what 5G is…I think it is a system, which will make the Internet of Things possible,” MP and former Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said. “For me it is this wider opportunity of Internet of Things, which really is significant, and that’s what’s caught our imagination in government. I want the UK to be one of the world leaders in 5G and that’s why we’re trying to take advantage of being early movers in this space,” he said.

Willetts also said that spectrum availability should be open to wider discussion, and that the UK should follow the US’s example in asking the question how much spectrum is really needed by the military and security services.

Deputy Head of Telecommunications Policy UK, Simon Towler, confirmed that spectrum remains a key issue for the government. “If 5G is to be developed in the way that offers an experience of ‘always sufficient bandwidth’ for whatever the consumer wants to be doing, then significantly more spectrum is going to be required. But we’re also going to need to use more and newer approaches in spectrum management,” Towler said.

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Towler’s prediction on 5G availability were echoed by another keynote speaker, Rahim Tafazolli, Director of Centre for Communication Systems Research, University of Surrey, although he also admitted the work on the new standard should have started as early as 2011, at least if the historical pattern is to be believed. He also stressed the importance of ensuring 5G will work with everything within the IoT: “everything on the internet is important.”According to Towler, the government’s spectrum strategy includes plans to release 500MHz of spectrum between 400MHz and 5GHz from public sector use by 2020, with the next major release from the Ministry of Defence of 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz. “But it [spectrum release] is not the only answer. There is a limit how far additional spectrum us going to get you,” he said. “We need more sites and investment in infrastructure.”

*Update as of September 23, 2014: techUK got in touch with telecoms.com to inform us that they would not classify themselves as a lobby group, but rather as an industry body.

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