The discussion formed part of the West Midlands Growth Company’s latest partner event entitled ‘5G in the West Midlands’. Held at the Library of Birmingham, keynote speaker Robert Franks, Managing Director at West Midlands 5G (WM5G), outlined the opportunities and challenges surrounding the deployment of 5G technology as well as the progress made so far.

“5G technology is the next generation of mobile technology that will underpin the next decade of change. 

“It will transform real-world services, creating a unique market opportunity centred around efficiency in speed and lower latency, allowing industries to respond to their customers more efficiently.

“The UK has successfully become the fifth country in the world to roll out 5G technology and the West Midlands has a leading role to play in shaping how we use it in industry”.

Franks continued to highlight the market opportunities the technology would create with the right interventions in place.

“Our aim is to accelerate the tactical rollout of 5G, creating a model that is scalable and one that can be exported. The verticals that the testbed will focus on include healthcare, transport, manufacturing and construction – we’ll also be gearing up to launch an application accelerator facility next year. 

“We’ll be working in partnership with public and private organisations as part of a three-year-long programme”.

Franks called upon a panel of industry representatives from across the West Midlands to discuss the potential of 5G within a wider context. Speakers included Lawrence Tallon, Director of Strategy, Planning & Performance, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust; Tim Kay, Sector Lead - Technology and Media, KPMG in the Midlands; and Angela Jeffery, Director of Innovation, Aston University. 

Tim Kay began the panel discussion by drawing on his experience of the 5G rollout across international markets, weighing up how the West Midlands compares.

“I’ve seen slightly different approaches overseas. What has become obvious is the strategic advantage of the West Midlands’ geography – we have scale in comparison. For businesses interested in 5G – irrespective of the size of the company – the West Midlands has a breadth of opportunity that’s unique, particularly for corporates”.

The panel was then asked to highlight the potential of specific business applications of the next-generation technology, considering the initial deployments underway. Highlighting the region’s first 5G demonstration event earlier this year, Lawrence Tallon gave examples of the tangible impact 5G would have on the healthcare sector and its wider supply chain.

“Most developed countries dedicate 10% of GDP on healthcare. So inevitably, there is an ongoing and growing demand to create a sustainable and productive model of delivering this crucial service. 

“The West Midlands happens to have advanced capabilities in this area that will be bolstered by 5G’s impact on data capture. For example, the University of Birmingham is home to a unique facility for medical device testing – the only one in the country. 

“It’s important to remember that timely intervention is critical to saving lives, therefore an ultrasound of a patient beamed in real time – which is what 5G will enable – means improved and lifesaving healthcare”. 

Angela Jeffery added:

“5G will become an enabler for a huge number of applications supporting key industries of the region. From quantum computing to automated programming, to devices nearer to market such as smart glasses or vehicle to vehicle communication. AI and specifically finTech have great potential for growth here”.

The panel summarised by highlighting the importance of collaboration in fully unleashing the potential of 5G. WM5G will be working with an ecosystem of organisations, from large corporates and universities to startups and SMEs, to develop scalable business applications on top of 5G. 

The Application Accelerator, which launches next year, will focus on understanding the remaining barriers to industry adoption of 5G. It will provide support for public and private sector organisations testing new 5G services and scaling them up in a real-world environment.

For more information, visit the WM5G website or follow the conversation using the WM5G hashtag.