You may have heard that Birmingham and the West Midlands is the test bed for the next generation of Mobile Phone network technology. But you might not know what 5G is…
What is 5G?
Simply put 5G is the next generation of mobile network technology. Since the launch of 3G back in 2001 and 4G in 2012, we’ve become accustomed to sending pictures, video, and browsing a full featured mobile internet.
More recently we’ve been streaming video such as Netflix and Youtube and music such as Spotify services. Though as we consume more data in High Definition the data speeds (at best 27.4 Mbps in London) and a theoretical limit of 100Mbps, 4G is not fast enough to support this on a daily basis.
5G is designed to overcome this bottleneck with a theoretical top speed between 1-10 Gbps (as fast as fibre internet and enough to download a 1080p film under a minute) and much lower latency. Latency is a big issue currently for those playing multiplayer games and Video Call streaming, and for future tech such as autonomous vehicles, who rely on instantaneous updates.
Why’s it important for Birmingham?
Some countries such as South Korea, Japan and China will begin rolling their networks out this year.
In the UK, Birmingham and the West Midlands, has been chosen as the test bed for 5G technology with a £50m investment to begin with.
Subject to formal approval, initial plans for 5G in Birmingham include:
- Hospital outpatient appointments and emergency consultations carried out remotely by video link, not subject to droppage or latency barriers.
- “Connected Ambulances” – Paramedic crews at an incident could access specialist advice while they are at the scene, e.g. video conferencing with consultants or other clinical specialists.
- Live streaming of CCTV footage from public transport buses, enabling immediate action against anti-social behaviour. “Intelligent cameras” using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify incidents.
What can 5G do?
Apart from the examples above 5G can enable a large number of other things, such as always on smart home technology, autonomous vehicles, mobile VR and more.
A recent example is Vodafone performing the first live Holographic call in the UK.
The call from Vodafone’s Manchester office featured England and Manchester City Women’s Football Captain, Steph Houghton MBE.
Using 5G technology, Steph appeared as a live 3D hologram on stage in front of an audience at Vodafone’s UK Headquarters in Newbury.
Steph’s hologram gave footballing tips to 11-year-old Manchester City and Lionesses fan, Iris, in Newbury. The exchange demonstrated the exciting possibilities that new technology can bring to sport, including remote coaching and training, as well as the opportunity to bring sports fans closer to their idols.
Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery said: “Vodafone has a history of firsts in UK telecoms – we made the nation’s first mobile phone call, sent the first text and now we’ve conducted the UK’s first holographic call using 5G. We also lead the industry in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, with the world’s largest dedicated global IoT network.
“The initiatives we’ve launched today are designed to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital technologies transforming how we live and work. From our customers and employees, to university students, digital entrepreneurs and businesses, we want to help people across the UK get ready for a digital future.”
University of Birmingham
Vodafone has also partnered with the University of Birmingham to launch the Vodafone Digital Degree.
A partnership between Vodafone and the University of Birmingham, 1 the programme combines a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science with a technology apprenticeship at Vodafone. 16 Digital Degree Apprentices have been accepted into the programme and will attend the University of Birmingham full-time.
During their four-year study period, Digital Degree Apprentices will receive a salary. There is a 10-week summer placement in their first year and a 12-month industrial placement in their third year, with a guaranteed role in one of Vodafone’s digital teams once they graduate in 2022.
Professor Andy Schofield, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: “We believe that in order to prepare our students for a 21st century workplace, it is essential to build their digital skills and give them the best possible opportunities
in which to use them.
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