£40 million scheme launched to unlock 5G in local areas

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has announced a new £40 million fund to help local areas across the UK boost their digital connectivity. 

Local and regional authorities can now apply to become 5G Innovation Regions, unlocking funding to introduce advanced wireless technologies to their area. 

The government predicts that the widespread adoption of 5G technology could increase UK productivity by £159 million by 2035. 

Potential applications include powering 5G enabled drones which aid farmers by scanning crop fields and deploying sensors which better manage traffic by detecting air quality. 

The fund is also designed to increase the security of digital infrastructure in the manufacturing, agriculture, transport and public services industries.

Improving local connectivity 

This fund follows the announcement of the UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy in April, which aims to improve digital infrastructure to facilitate the widespread adoption of 5G . The strategy is targeting nationwide 5G coverage of populated areas by 2030, plus funding for research into 6G. 

In addition, the UK telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) is launching a campaign alongside the 5G Innovation Regions project to connect businesses interested in upgrading to 5G technology with telecoms providers and vendors. 

The hope is these schemes will help amplify the government's wider devolution plans, including Investment Zones and Project Gigabit - the £5 billion programme providing fast broadband to hard to reach areas. 

Breaking down barriers at a local level

Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, said: “Greater adoption of 5G-powered technologies will help deliver more efficient public services, new opportunities for residents and businesses, and a boost for economic growth.” 

He added that “5G Innovation Regions will be uniquely positioned to benefit from breaking down barriers which hinder the rollout of such technologies at a local level” and encouraged local areas who apply to be “ambitious in their vision for reaping the rewards of 5G.”

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