West Midlands selected as UK testbed for 5G

The high-speed mobile technology could be used to improve healthcare and public transport.

The West Midlands has won a bid to be the UK’s first large-scale testbed for 5G, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced.

Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton will become 5G hubs for the high-speed mobile internet technology, which has the potential to improve healthcare and public transport.

A £50 million fund has been made available for the project, where initial plans could see connected ambulances deployed across the region, providing paramedic crews with access to specialist advice using video conferencing and live streaming of patient data to the hospital en route.

An additional £25 million may be made available at a later stage.

The technology could be used to transform the work of paramedics (Rui Vieira/PA)

“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,” said Digital Minister 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.”

Other ambitions include carrying out hospital outpatient appointments and emergency consultations remotely via video-link with a more stable connection than existing networks, which could enable patients to play back their appointment at a later date.

There are also discussions about using 5G to live-stream CCTV footage from public transport buses, using intelligent cameras and artificial intelligence to alert authorities about anti-social behaviour.

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

“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.

“The potential of this technology is endless – and we will enjoy the benefits first.

“From monitoring the health of babies and the elderly, to the way our people are linked to the economy of the future, the way companies do business, the way we deliver public services, the experience of travellers on public transport and the way we deliver City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games – everything can be made better thanks to the power of this technology.”

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is also planning to work with Jaguar Land Rover to transform the way we travel.

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