Digital infrastructure5G & MobileOpinion: 5G and its potential for the public sector

Opinion: 5G and its potential for the public sector

Dritan Kaleshi, Lead Technologist at Digital Catapult discusses what 5G technology promises for the public sector.

What technology advances will 5G enable for the public sector?

5G will provide more than just faster mobile internet on the move, as previous mobile technology generations have done. It’s the first mobile technology generation that will support, by design, connectivity between things as well as people, and will do this better by enabling the delivery of more data, more reliably, prompting faster interaction. And potentially, it will do this more efficiently, as a networking system.

This is why we see 5G as a transformational technology beyond the telecommunication sector – our interest is in how, with the introduction of these features, it actually acts as an unique enabler of innovation and, only through successful innovation, will affect all areas of our economic activities.

Who will it benefit and how?

Mobile communications are already a General Purpose Technology (GPT) – same as electricity, the printing press, railways, cars, and the Internet. As of 2017, 5 billion people in the world are connected to a mobile network – this is more than people reading a book, driving a car, or even using a computer.

Of course, the introduction of a new mobile tech generation will improve the interaction between people. But, being the first mobile technology designed to support connection of things as well as people, it opens a whole range of new possibilities – support for autonomous cars, better support for application of Internet of Things in healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, support for more interactive and new models of content creation and consumption for media.

Fundamentally, 5G opens the doors for mobile communications to underpin digital transformation of our economic activities, in the same way that it underpinned digital transformation of our social interactions in 4G!

How will it positively help the public sector?

Until now there has been a lot of focus on what the technology is, rather than what it will deliver, and what it means, for the people. Better mobile connectivity through roll-out of 5G will enable better tackling of some of the biggest challenges cities and rural areas face; more efficient delivery of better services for citizens in health and social care, improved monitoring of city activities, better traffic and crowd management, or improved energy management.

There have been many studies about the benefits specifically to cities, and local authorities, of supporting 5G rollout. For example, O2’s report on the Value of 5G for cities and communities states that local authorities will save £2.8bn/year due to 5G-enabled improvements in provision of health and social care and smart management of other public services. This does not take into account possible new business models around local authorities participating in provisioning of digital infrastructure in their cities through infrastructure sharing and neutral hosting.

When is it due to be launched/rolled out?

5G will be rolled out in the UK from end of 2019, and this is in line with many other leading countries in the world. However, it is clear that realising the transformational benefits of 5G requires an unprecedented collaboration between mobile industry (operators and vendors), other industries and local authorities, to unlock new demand and deliver economic impact through purposeful innovation.

To enable this co-creation and co-experimentation of new public services enabled by 5G the UK Government has announced the Urban Connected Communities 5G testbed in West Midlands. This will enable the whole 5G ecosystem in the UK to engage with developing new services and products in parallel with the commercial rollout of 5G.

At Digital Catapult we see this as a unique opportunity to establish leadership for the UK in the field not so much in the 5G technology development, but in what it will be used for and how it will transform our economic activities and deliver real economic impact at local and national level.

Dritan Kaleshi is the Lead Technologist at the Digital Catapult, and will be speaking in more depth about how IoT and 5G will shape the next generation of public Services, at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 20 November.

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