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WMGC 5G Event – How 5G Will Transform the West Midlands

The West Midlands’ tech potential was under discussion yesterday at the West Midlands Growth Company 5G event – showcasing the innovation that 5G technology could provide across the region.

Hosted at The Library of Birmingham, a panel of experts from the educational, healthcare and technology sector were on hand to talk about how 5G will transform infrastructure around the West Midlands as well as day-to-day life for residents. 

The next step up from 4G, 5G technology is expected to be around five to ten times faster than current speeds, delivering vastly more data. With the capability to connect 50 times more devices within a square kilometre, 5G devices will guarantee shorter delays and better connectivity across the board.

As a region, the West Midlands is 1st in the UK and 5th in the world to launch 5G – a huge improvement on its previous launch of 4G in 2012 where it was 51st to adopt the technology. This is a huge boost for an area that is already driving incredible development and winning bids to host global events such as the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Keynote speaker Robert Franks, Managing Director of WM5G, highlighted some of the unique challenges facing the tactical rollout of 5G occurring across the UK, mainly centered around the low fibre penetration within the country. Fibre connections are vital to transfer vast amounts of data quickly, demonstrating the necessity to accelerate fibre infrastructure in both urban and rural areas.

Robert went on to describe how acceleration would be achieved through collaboration between the public and private sectors, working alongside local authorities to deliver the necessary infrastructure changes. Once that network is in place, WM5G hope to test, prove and then scale the 5G service.

As part of the expert panel, Tim Kay from KPMG spoke about how the West Midlands is unique in its ability to scale. Thanks to the current foundations in place and the region’s incredible connectivity, Tim believes there is a window of opportunity for a business of any size to succeed and scale within the West Midlands by utilising 5G. 

This was followed by Angela Jeffery, Director of Innovation at Aston University, who highlighted the importance of the ‘accelerator space’, a purpose-built program for businesses to innovate and experiment with 5G within a test environment. The accelerator space would also help reinforce the applications that 5G could have on different sectors – from augmented reality in construction through to services in the healthcare sector.

Healthcare could be particularly impacted due to the sector’s relatively slow uptake on new technology. According to Lawrence Tallon, Director of Strategy, Planning and Performance with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, 5G would create a more sustainable environment for an aging UK population, streamlining data transfers, product services and the stress on current healthcare staff.

As the event rounded up, Matthew Hammond, Chair of the West Midlands Growth Company, described this period of implementation as ‘the tipping point for 5G’, taking the wider West Midlands to the next level both domestically and internationally. As one of the first testbeds in the world, it’s only good news for Birmingham’s exciting development pipeline as a whole.

The property market will be particularly impacted by the ‘Internet of Things’ – a concept of connectivity that 5G will make a reality. Homes with ‘smart’ features or connected fixtures will be much more desirable in the market and with enough data, property managers or commercial landlords will have an unprecedented level of analytics to make properties better.

The West Midlands Growth Company 5G Event was hosted at The Library of Birmingham on 18th September 2019, with a keynote speech from Robert Franks and a panel discussion with:  

Tim Kay – Director (KPMG)

Angela Jeffery – Direction of Innovation (Aston University)

Lawrence Tallon – Direction of Strategy, Planning and Performance (University Hospitals Birmingham – NHS Foundation Trust)

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