Finally, the UK acknowledges that it can’t afford to sit out yet another generation of mobile development and that it must invest in quality R&D. Guy Daniels reports.
Not all news releases make their way through to the scribes’ workstations here at TelecomTV Text Central. Some invariably get caught in our email ‘yawn’ filter – it works like the spam filter, but instead of removing emails about Viagra, Hair Loss Prevention and Trade Shows, it sifts out telecoms stories of dubious merit. These days, it gets plenty of use.
But thankfully we managed to save this one from Monday about 5G (yes, we know, surely any release with a claim about 5G is an automatic yawn, but it was my birthday after all). The University of Surrey in the UK, in collaboration with its own Centre for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), announced that it has secured £35m of new funding for work on the next generation of mobile technology.
The money will be used to develop a specialised 5G Innovation Centre to stimulate significant expansion in UK telecom research, development, innovation and the provision of broadband mobile internet services. The University says it will also have “significant downstream benefits for economic growth”. Which is good, because £11.6m of that is coming from the cash-strapped government. The balance of funds comes from a consortium of mobile operators and infrastructure providers. These include Telefonica Europe, Samsung, Huawei, Fujitsu Laboratories, Rohde-Schwarz and Aircom International.
Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of the CCSR, explained why the focus on next generation mobile is so important:
“Although the UK played an active role in the creation of 2G (GSM) cellular standards, it has increasingly fallen behind in succeeding generations 3G and 4G standards.
The University’s industry partners have identified this proposal as the single biggest opportunity for the UK to regain a world leading position in the development of 5G technologies and for the development of vibrant businesses around the technologies.”
Too true. What has happened with 4G in the UK is an utter disgrace. The incredible work done by GSM pioneers like Stephen Temple in uniting the whole of Europe behind a single, common standard, operating on harmonised frequencies, was ground-breaking. Contrast that with the mess that happened when patent-wielding manufacturers got involved with 3G. And it wasn’t just the UK – you had Thomas Haug, Philippe Dupuis, Renzo Faili, and many, many more. They formed a Hall of Fame, took their rightful places, and bolted the door – they have no equals.
Mobile is now the powerhouse of communications and service delivery, and is set to remain so. But with each new technological shift occurring every ten years or so (who knows why, it just works out that way…), now is the time to accelerate work on the next significant advance. As Professor Tafazolli says, the global telecoms industry is valued at $2.1 trillion per annum and is already responsible for 6 per cent of world GDP. Mobile data traffic is expected to increase a thousand-fold by 2020, by which time there will be an estimated 50 billion Internet-capable devices:
“The growth in the number of new applications running on the networks is accelerating, as ever more mobile devices become the preferred route for Internet access. Such unprecedented data traffic growth requires the urgent introduction of new 5G advanced technologies that maximise the use of the limited available radio spectrum and provide for Greener technologies and solutions.”
The news of the funding came on the same day that the government agreed to provide an additional £200 million to the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF). This is on top of the £100 million announced in the Budget, bringing the total to £300 million of public investment.
To access the money, universities must at least double the money they receive from the fund through contributions from private companies or charities. The expected overall investment to universities is expected to be in the region of £1 billion. The fund was launched in June 2012. It supports major infrastructure projects in universities and colleges undertaking world-leading research.
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