In the last year, the fifth generation of mobile technology has started to resonate with the public as we see more 5G-enabled technology enter the market. Around the world, more and more businesses are now starting to demand this next generation of technology and wanting to explore the endless possibilities 5G enables.

To truly harness the revolutionary benefits of 5G, it is vital we get the foundations right and develop a 5G ecosystem that is fit for the future.

At WM5G, we are delivering the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed looking to test, prove and scale new applications and services. Together with mobile network operators and all seven local authorities within the West Midlands, we have already helped over 20 towns and cities accelerate access to 5G.

Getting the infrastructure right now will mean businesses and public sector organisations can get involved much sooner, which will help to position the UK as a world leader in 5G technology.

The major mobile network operators in the UK have already taken great steps in their respective deployment of 5G and, in 2020, we are likely to see even greater penetration.

Since WM5G formed in 2019, our work has heavily focused on getting the foundations right to be 5G Ready but also scoping the potential across a range of industry verticals, currently making most progress in the mobility sector– from a road, rail and passenger experience perspective.  However, we are increasingly working with a variety of businesses to help them explore real-life applications of the technology.

Last year we conducted the UK’s first 5G remote ultrasound trial and industry 5G demonstrators. In the next few weeks we’ll be launching the UK’s first 5G innovation centres to help organisations of all sizes to benefit from 5G. The first, in Birmingham, will open its doors to public and private sector businesses this month, with hubs in Coventry and Wolverhampton set to follow. The facilities will provide a private, cutting edge 5G network that is not yet commercially available, for organisations to experiment in a safe environment.

We aren’t just looking for technology giants – we really want to engage SMEs. Not only do small to medium businesses account for around of 95% of the value of the region’s manufacturing output but they are also usually the firms who benefit greatest from being an early adaptor of new technology.

The purpose of the innovation centres can range from just awareness to actually testing and delivering tangible 5G products and services – driving opportunities at scale across the whole of the West Midlands.

Our experience shows to move forward and step into a 5G-enabled future, we must join all the players in the ecosystem together – collaboration across mobile operators, local authorities, the public and private sectors – ultimately unlocking the ability to deliver benefit for our citizens, communities and companies.