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UK government chucks some money at a few 5G bright ideas

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has managed to scrape together £28 million to contribute to some test projects focusing on consumer applications of 5G.

One of them is an AR app accompanying the latest BBC Natural History series – The Green Planet – hosted as ever by David Attenborough. It will feature a supposedly holographic video of the venerable tree-hugger has he delivers his increasingly activist narrative. EE is involved too and reckons the app will somehow demonstrate the unique capabilities of its 5G network.

“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,” said Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman. “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.”

“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.”

“This pioneering project will exploit the technological advances that underpin EE’s 5G network to help deepen our appreciation of the natural world,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division. “Understanding our environment has never been more important and by using AR we will enable users to immerse themselves in nature. I am delighted that we can utilise EE’s 5G capabilities to show how modern technology is a means to informing and inspiring greater responsibility towards our planet.”

The most interesting feature of this initiative is the emphasis it places on OpenRAN, the politician’s answer to the telecoms vendor duopoly created by the banning of Chinese companies. It looks like you could stick an OpenRAN label on nearly anything these days and be guaranteed some public subsidy. Here’s the full list of projects as provided by the DCMS.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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.

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.

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