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November 22, 2016updated 13 Jan 2017 11:59am

Video streaming, cars, smart cities: will £1.1bn be enough to grow the UK digital economy?

Autumn Statement promises £1.1 billion 5G and fibre splurge: but how will high-speed broadband be used?

By Alexander Sword

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond gears up to splurge over £1.1 billion on fibre broadband and 5G technologies.

£400 million called the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to be given to fibre broadband providers to expand networks.

£740 million committed to developing 5G and on rolling out fibre.

Where can we expect the to see the greatest impact?

5G could help generate €113.1 billion a year Europe wide by 2025 said a European Commission-supported study with trickle-down impact of €141 billion.

As infrastructure investments go, the networks themselves will be pretty much invisible so where will business and the public see the benefits:

1. Video streaming

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Video streaming is not a new technology, but it will soon take centre stage in internet usage. According to Cisco, global IP video traffic will grow threefold from 2015 to 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent while internet video traffic will grow fourfold in the same period.

video streamingCurrently use of video is often limited by available internet speeds in the case of home broadband connections and by data constraints when using cellular.

The faster and higher capacity networks will sate the growing appetite for high quality video streaming services, especially as more and more video content moves online through services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.


2. Connected cars

Network companies and automakers are already working on the connectivity solutions that will power connected and driverless cars.

For example, in the UK, Vodafone has been testing vehicle-to-vehicle communications using the LTE-V2X protocol.

smart carStakeholders in both the telecoms and automotive industry have been collaborating to determine standards and solutions for 5G use in road vehicles. The 5G Automotive Association, for example, formed recently, will include Audi, BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm.

In fact, the EU study found that the automotive industry would be the biggest beneficiary of 5G, with strategic benefits of €13.8 billion.

Next Smart Cities, Healthcare and Supply chain

3. Smart cities

Apps such as Citymapper already incorporate traffic and public transport conditions into their mapping software in order to provide more accurate information on how long a journey will take.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what smart infrastructure can offer. Smart infrastructure could not only collect information about conditions in a smart city but feed this back into the connected devices to control these conditions.

5GFor example, internet-enabled road signs could redirect traffic to under-used areas to free up space on roads.

Having an advanced network of sensors could also lead to considerable energy savings as power in street lights and other appliances is conserved or redirected to areas of greater need.

These sensors will need the high-speed connectivity and low latency provided by 5G and fibre to serve these purposes.


4. Healthcare

5G could be hugely important in facilitating the upcoming revolution in mobile health. According to the EU study, healthcare would gain benefits of €1.1 billion from deployment of 5G.

5G mobile health5G would allow real-time health data to be fed back to clinicians from patients sporting wearable devices, including blood pressure or insulin body worn sensors. One of the key features of 5G will be its energy efficiency, which will allow devices running on it to last for long periods on a single battery charge.

In addition, more reliable connectivity could allow more consultations to be carried out remotely through video calls, freeing up resources of physical hospitals and allowing doctors to work in a more mobile way.

The growing use of healthcare and fitness applications on smartphones is another application that greater connectivity could provide.

Next Supply Chain


5. Supply chain

The Internet of Things, enabled through 5G, will also provide major benefits in UK manufacturing. Sensors across the production line will provide an overarching view of production and allow management to intervene.

Retailers will also benefit from a backbone of high-speed connectivity provided by both fibre and 5G. Again, the advantage comes from the data; branches and personnel will be able to feed real-time information from the shop floor back to management

With 5G, this will include the ability to use mobile devices to gather information while travelling.

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