West of England’s 5G Smart Tourism bid wins £5m funding

Innovation
12 Mar, 18 by Phil Higgins

The West of England Combined Authority has secured £5 million from Government to trial an ultrafast 5G network at tourist destinations in Bristol and Bath.

The trial will see 5G infrastructure and trial applications developed at the Roman Baths in Bath, M Shed and in and around We The Curious and Millennium Square in Bristol.

“Imagine a virtual Roman soldier showing you around the Roman Baths,” said West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles. “Now imagine this moving 360 degrees on your mobile phone at a resolution you have never experienced before – that’s what 5G technology can offer.

“The 5G Smart Tourism bid will allow us to trial some exciting technology at our top tourist attractions, whilst looking at wider and longer-term benefits for our region. This new technology holds the key to a more advanced, sustainable and smart future which will revolutionise the way we all live, travel and work.”

Interview with bid supporter – Stephen Hilton

We spoke to Stephen Hilton, Director of Bristol Futures Global, who helped the  University of Bristol and the West of England Combined Authority deliver the winning bid, and asked him to give an overview of the project.

Watch the full interview

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries said: “The next generation of connectivity is set to transform business and society, and the Government is committed to ensuring the UK is fit for a 5G future.

“Smart tourism is just one of the projects we’re funding to drive this forward, and I look forward to its exploration of the innovative ways 5G can boost the West of England’s fantastic tourism experiences.”

Reactions from the region’s politicians

Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said “We’re proud to be part of this innovation; which supports our commitment to providing 21st Century technology across Bath. We hope it will enhance the experience for people visiting such heritage gems as the Roman Baths.”

5G is set to be the largest step forward for mobile network technology yet, offering much faster speeds than 4G. It won’t be used for human communication alone; it will also support communications between things humans have invented, forming the ‘Internet of Things’. This will have a huge impact on people’s lives, supporting everything from driverless cars to smarter homes. The trial will look at this wider impact and how the West of England can become a smart region, using new technology to link up our transport and homes, hospitals and schools.

Professor Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is great news – 5G offers significant business growth opportunities for our tech sector. The West of England is well placed to become a smart region – we are home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London, and our businesses and universities are at the forefront of innovation in next generation networks including 5G.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “This is great news for the city-region. In Bristol we know the importance of developing new technologies in order to empower our citizens and create a well-connected city. Our work with the University of Bristol to develop the city’s platform for cutting edge 5G research was mentioned recently when Bristol was announced as one of the world’s leading smart cities of the future.

“This announcement of further funding will help Bristol to continue being an internationally recognised testbed for new technologies which is already helping us to find real new innovative solutions to help our city pave the way to become a more inclusive and fairer society.”

The 5G consortium

The 5G Smart Tourism project, funded by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, brings together a partnership, led by the West of England Combined Authority. It is a diverse, high profile and highly skilled consortium including 5G network and service providers (BT, Zeetta, CCS, InterDigital, Bristol is Open) through to tourism and business support organisations (Destination Bristol and Business West), visitor destinations (The Roman Baths, The Grand Appeal’s Gromit Unleashed Arts Trail, MShed), ), innovation centre (Digital Catapult), tech hubs (Bristol VR Lab), SMEs and large businesses (IBI Group, Mativision, Smartify, Landmrk, 3Sixty, Bristol Futures Global, Mo-Sys), research bodies (University of Bristol, Kings College, London), world-class media and content companies (BBC, Aardman) and public sector partners Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council.

Building on the region’s strengths in advanced telecoms

The project will build upon the 5G network already developed by the University of Bristol, through earlier DCMS funding, to establish experimentation capabilities for digital innovation. The University of Bristol’s world-leading expertise on telecommunications and pioneering research on 5G technologies and networks has been pivotal in defining and delivering the Smart Tourism Bid. The University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab is driving the 5G agenda both locally and nationally and is one of three UK sites, which will deliver the world’s first end-to-end 5G system trials in March 2018, thanks to £16m investment from DCMS. This know-how and infrastructure will be key in delivering 5G trials for the West of England visitor economy.

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