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The government has announced it is investing £16 million in a 5G test network, in an attempt to make the UK world leader in mobile technology.

Experts from three leading 5G research institutions – King’s College London and the Universities of Surrey and Bristol – will develop the trial the technology to make sure people and businesses can enjoy the benefits as soon as possible.

5G is expected to deliver reliable ultrafast mobile connectivity with the ability to process huge amounts of data and support complex applications predicted for tomorrow’s mobile phones – for example, sending virtual reality 3D TV clips to mobile devices.

It could also be used in new technologies that have the potential to revolutionise society such as driverless cars or in advanced manufacturing and robotics, augmented reality, remote surgery, smart agriculture and in smart homes and cities.

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“We want to be at the head of the field in 5G. This funding will support the pioneering research needed to ensure we can harness the potential of this technology to spark innovation, create new jobs and boost the economy,” said the Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock.

“We know 5G has the potential to bring more reliable, ultrafast mobile connectivity, with quicker reaction times and larger data capabilities, and I’m thrilled to announce King’s College London and the universities of Surrey and Bristol have agreed to collaborate on this project.”

The universities will work together to create three small-scale mobile networks, which together will form the test network.

Each network will have a number of the elements expected in a commercial 5G network – including mobile signal receivers and transmitters and the technology to handle 5G signals – to support trials of its many potential uses.

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The test network is the first part of a four-year programme of investment and collaboration, with the ultimate aim of developing a national 5G Innovation Network.

“This exciting programme builds on significant investment and a strong foundation of 5G research and development across the three institutions,” said Rahim Tafazolli, director of the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre.

“The programme will maintain and extend the UK’s leadership position in the race to transform many aspects of everyday life and business through digital transformation.”

Commenting on the news, Paul Bradley, 5G Strategy and Partnerships Director at digital security company Gemalto, said that 5G technology will allow “smart homes” and “smart cities” to finally become a reality.

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“The most exciting thing for consumers about 5G is not just what it means for our smartphones; rather it is that every single thing in our lives will be connected to the internet,” he said.

“This will bring with it blazing fast connectivity for traditional content and applications – imagine opening a film in 16k quality from a VOD service such as Netflix from your autonomous car, and it starts immediately instead of buffering

“But it also has exciting implications for smart consumer services, thanks to the ultra-fast network reaction times, low-power consumption, and bandwidth capabilities of 5G.

“Consumers will be able to travel in autonomous vehicles, through smart urban infrastructure (e.g. street lights which power down when there’s no cars or people around) and be supported by ever-present artificially intelligent assistants through their everyday tasks wherever they are.”

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