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Oxfordshire to host new government-backed 5G facility

The campus will allow businesses to test and build hybrid 5G and satellite communication networks

A new government-backed 5G testing facility is to be built in Oxfordshire, the UK Space Agency has announced, which aims to help UK businesses leverage the potential of 5G and satellite technology.

Due for completion in 2021, the engineering hub is to be built by the IT and business consultancy CGI at the county’s Harwell Campus and is receiving more than £3 million in government investment.

The new 5G HQ, which the UK Space Agency says will eventually cover the entire campus, will provide a base for UK researchers and businesses to experiment and provide a testing facility that can showcase the benefits of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks.

Once the technology is demonstrated, the goal is to then roll out the techniques to other businesses in the UK, the organisation said.

“This new state-of-the-art facility backed by government funding will enable our brightest researchers and engineers to better understand how 5G can better connect us all, creating new business opportunities, while delivering green efficiencies across the UK,” commented UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

Considered the next big leap in wireless communications, 5G connectivity will bring faster data speeds and lower latency across networks, allowing devices to exchange data almost instantly.

The technology will enable more devices to be connected for longer periods of time, as well as enabling a broad range of applications across industries – including the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality.

Ultimately, 5G is expected to offer benefits to a range of industries, including enterprise and communications software, manufacturing, medicine, farming, public safety, as well as entertainment and gaming.

The new hub will develop software that allows satellite networks, including low earth orbit networks, to be integrated into terrestrial public and private communications networks – creating new business opportunities for application developers and mobile network providers, the UK Space Agency said.

The centre is also being backed by a European Space Agency contract and, as part of its development, CGI is working with BT, Avanti Communications, and the University of Surrey on a project to see how it can connect rural communities to 5G in the most affordable way possible.

“ESA’s novel 5G hub will showcase how space technology enables connectivity, partnering with industry to foster innovation in the realms of autonomous vehicles and smart cities, and to enable machines to exchange information with one another via the Internet of Things,” said Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications and integrated applications at ESA.

“Adding satellites to existing terrestrial 5G infrastructure is essential to ensure a reliable and safe telecommunications network that supports such connectivity, which in turn promotes a seamless and more environmentally friendly experience. Investing in space improves life on earth.”

In October, three UK employers pledged to create 5,000 tech-related jobs. Liberty Global – the owner of Virgin Media and O2’s parent firm Telefonica – unveiled plans to create 4,000 jobs across the country and another 1,000 apprenticeships to accelerate the rollout of 5G.

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