Finnish kit maker’s U.K. and Ireland CEO says U.K. can become world leader in 5G testing

BT and Nokia will partner together with the University of Bristol to conduct a live 5G proof of concept (PoC) test, it emerged on Monday.

The tests are aimed at gauging the viability of smart urban applications over next generation networks. The tests will take place in Bristol in March 2018.

"Over the coming months the test networks will be used to explore and validate the deployment of 5G architecture that integrates existing technologies with innovations such as Massive MIMO radio access solutions, software defined networking (SDN), network slicing and edge computing node functionalities," a spokesperson for the University of Bristol told the press at a roundtable event on Monday.

With initiatives like this, the U.K. has a unique opportunity to establish itself as a world leader in 5G testing, despite the country’s looming exit from the European Union, claimed Nokia’s CEO for the U.K. and Ireland, Cormac Whelan.

Speaking at Monday’s roundtable, Whelan said that recent investments in the U.K. telecoms sector could be used to establish the country as a key destination in the testing of 5G hardware.

"One of the things that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been looking to do is to make the U.K. one of the key test beds in the world for 5G development. Some of this funding that they have put in place is specifically to drive those test cases. That’s why it is split across a number of different universities, a number of different vendors and a number of different operators to try and drive and prove these test cases," he explained.

Whelan believes that by positioning itself at the forefront of 5G testing, the U.K. can establish itself as a hub for investment for areas such as software development, cyber security and a whole host of burgeoning industries. 

"I think there will be entire new industries that will be driven off of the back of this, for example: digital health, industrial robotics, automation," he said.

"One of the key questions for U.K. PLC to address is how do we make ourselves one of the centres of the world for 5G proof cases?"

When asked whether Britain’s forthcoming exit from the European Union would limit its ability to transform itself into an international development hub, Whelan acknowledged that there would be challenges but remained optimistic about the U.K.’s prospects.

"Firstly, Brexit is an annoyance. [There is the] concern over freedom of movement for labour. We are a truly international organisation and 10% of our working population here in the U.K. are EU nationals," he said.

"Secondly, and this is where the DCMS funding comes into it, I wonder if maybe they see an opportunity. If you can make the U.K. the test bed/expertise/centre of excellence for next generation technology and communications, it gives you that acceleration to be able to say ‘we are not tied down by European legislation’. I think that’s quite forward thinking of the DCMS to try and use it [Brexit] as a springboard."

Brexit and its implications on the telecoms sector will be a key theme at the Connected Britain 2018 event. Held from the 19th – 20th June, the event will bring together key stakeholders to discuss Britain’s evolving telecoms infrastructure. Click here to find out how you can be part of the show.