Light rail and trams


Nexus to lead north east bid for 5G connectivity testbed

Transport authorities in the north east have today voiced their ambition to set up a national testbed for 5G connectivity in the region.

In a bid to establish the area as a leader for 5G in England, the North East Combined Authority (NECA), the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Nexus, the Digital Catapult Centre and the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre have partnered to develop a plan to give mobile phone operators and technology companies the environment they need to improve connectivity in the area, including across the Tyne and Wear Metro system.

The testbed programme would create a “fibreoptic backbone” around the Metro network and link different parts of the region.

Initial funding has already been secured by north east partners to develop a business case which will lead to a bid for testbed investment to the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport.

“We are delighted to be at the heart of this project, which is built on the unique infrastructure the Metro system’s region-wide fibre connectivity provides,” said Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Nexus.  

“It will enable us to test how 5G can improve transport services, but will also be able to provide the platform for testing other applications across the economy.”

Councillor Paul Watson, chair of NECA, added: “The north east partners see trials as an opportunity to be in the first wave of 5G‐enablement, improve the region’s digital infrastructure and position the North East as the first choice for inward investment in digital industries.

“We’re confident of producing a strong bid that will not only highlight the region’s suitability as a testbed but also demonstrate that we are primed and ready to go on this project.”

Richard Baker, North East LEP head of strategy and policy, also explained that the region’s diverse and well-connected economy meant that it is ideally positioned to play a key role in helping the UK meet its aim of being a global leader in 5G development.

“Our aim is to ensure that the region can seize the economic opportunities presented by 5G by being involved in the early stage testing needed to develop national 5G capability,” he continued.

“By 2030, it is estimated that the 5G-enabled communications industry will be worth £198bn a year to national GDP and we want the north east to be at the forefront of this revolution, creating opportunities for local businesses and attracting new investment technology, as well as to ensure that our residents can benefit from new and improved services.”

Top Image: Phil Thirkell

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