West Midlands 5G (WM5G), a new organisation set-up to deliver the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed, has appointed Robert Franks, a former Telefónica UK Limited (O2) Director, as its new Managing Director.

WM5G’s mission is to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks and test, prove and scale new 5G services across the West Midlands. In a UK first, WM5G recently launched its initial use case at University Hospital Birmingham. The demonstration, in partnership with BT, showcased how remote 5G ultrasound scans could save lives and reduce patient waiting times.

Mr Franks has led WM5G as interim Managing Director since February, during which time the programme has moved from mobilisation into delivery. Following a competitive recruitment process, Mr Franks was selected to permanently lead the venture and accelerate the benefits of 5G across the region.

Over the past ten years, Mr Franks has held senior positions at O2, including Director of Digital and Managing Director of Commerce. During this time, Mr Franks profitably doubled revenue into the hundreds of millions by launching and scaling new businesses in sectors such as: WiFi, Internet of Things, messaging, payments, data analytics, advertising and FinTech. He also led the company’s start-up accelerator. Prior to his time with O2, Mr Franks held senior marketing and strategy positions at T-Mobile and Orange.

On his appointment, Robert Franks said: “WM5G offers the opportunity to deliver innovation that makes a real difference to people, businesses and public services on a grand scale. I’m very excited to be leading this pioneering new venture.”

Igor Leprince, Chair of the WM5G board, added: “Robert has a proven track record of scaling innovative new businesses. We are delighted to welcome him to lead WM5G as Managing Director to accelerate the benefits of the programme.”

WM5G’s initial focus will be the deployment of the necessary infrastructure required for 5G as well as building health, industry and mobility testbeds. The organisation is working closely with manufacturers, SMEs, universities and hospitals across the region on new digital applications that will help drive economic growth and make a real and positive difference to the people and businesses of the West Midlands.