West Midlands to host the UK's first large-scale 5G testbed

The DCMS will work with authorities in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton to implement smart solutions

The West Midlands will become the first area to benefit from a 5G network after receiving 150m from the government and businesses as part of a nationwide competition.

Following a successful pitch to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton will become UK 5G hubs, allowing the deployment of trials including those involving connected ambulances, online hospital consultations and innovations to put a stop to antisocial behaviour on public transport.

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As part of the Urban Connected Communities Project, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will work alongside the DCMS to develop solutions to many of the area's health and transport sectors - areas highlighted by the WMCA as those that will benefit from 5G.

"This announcement is game-changing for the West Midlands economy. This will be the backbone of our future economy and society," said Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands. 

"We have been working to put the foundations in place to grow the industries which will create the jobs of the future, particularly around driverless vehicles and life sciences where we have a genuine advantage. To deliver the future of these industries we need the power of 5G."

Some of the first implementations of 5G in the area include carrying out emergency consultations and hospital outpatient appointments by video link to make it easier for those who can't visit hospital or an emergency care provider to get the healthcare they need. They will also be able to share the recorded videos with caregivers.

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Connected ambulances would enable paramedics to access consultants and other specialists while at the scene of an emergency, while autonomous car trials will take place in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover. To try and eradicate antisocial behaviour on public transport, WMCA will live stream CCTV footage from buses to police if needed and intelligent cameras using AI could identify incidents to crackdown on crime.

"5G has the potential to dramatically transform the way we go about our daily lives, and we want the citizens of the UK to be amongst the first to experience all the opportunities and benefits this new technology will bring," added Minister for Digital, Margot James. 

"The West Midlands Testbed, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, will be instrumental in helping us realise this ambition."

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