How David Willetts MP wants Gov to develop 5G to drive IoT growth.
The UK could be a leader in 5G technology, according to former science and universities minister David Willetts MP.
He advocated working with the US and China to help set standards for the new spectrum, ahead of 5G’s aimed-for roll out in 2020, and said 5G would be vital in underpinning the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT).
Speaking at the 5G Huddle conference in London yesterday, 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 the UK would be ideal for developing 5G schemes, pointing to Tech City UK, the government quango responsible for boosting tech startups, the £42-funded big data research centre known as the Alan Turing Institute, not yet open, and the Connected Digital Economy Catapult Centres, which helps startups speed their development.
The Government has also granted £35m to the University of Surrey to help research 5G networks.
But the former science minister stressed that data ownership and privacy concerns must be addressed.
"We need to be clear legally about who owns the data about what an individual and their device are up to," he said.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s head of telecommunications policy, Simon Towler, said the Government is keen to support the development of 5G, but said spectrum availability was a key issue.
"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," he explained.
In an additional comment, Paul Gainham, senior director of marketing at Juniper Networks EMEA, warned that the Government faces big trade-offs whether it opts for a higher or lower frequency spectrum.
"There are a number of advantages to operating 5G services with lower frequencies, most notably the cell coverage area," he said. "Alas the trade-off is capacity. The lower frequency bands are already heavily utilised by 2, 3 and 4G services plus there simply is not the frequency ‘width’ to operate multi Gbps data services (one of the performance advantages offered by 5G).
"That will necessitate the consideration of a much higher frequency band where capacity is plentiful but its downside is a reduced cell coverage area."