The 5G emulator is the first response to Philip Hammond’s declaration in this year’s Autumn Statement: “My ambition is for the UK to be a world leader in 5G. That means a full-fibre network; a step-change in speed, security and reliability.”
The opening also follows last week’s news that the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) reported 5G would play a crucial role in the economy, and that mobile connectivity had become a necessity in society.
The new facility will be a first step towards achieving this, allowing start-ups and businesses working on mobile applications to develop systems capable of operating on the next generation at an early stage.
The 5G emulator was built through a significant investment from the Enterprise M3 LEP growth fund, with expertise supplied by the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, and supported by SETsquared, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and high-tech start-up Gematech.
Digital entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-up businesses will be able to access the facility through SETsquared’s new digital hubs based in growth towns in the Enterprise M3 region, as part of its Digital Business Acceleration Hub programme.
Keith Robson, chief operating officer of the 5G innovation centre at the University of Surrey, said: “This centre is the first in the UK where SMEs and start-ups can get direct access to 5G test and demonstration facilities directly connected to the £75m R&D facility at the 5GIC. We are taking a very integrated approach to this totally new generation network, which will be used worldwide.
“We have a fantastic human resource here in the Basingstoke region and it’s the thing that’s making all this cutting-edge tech happen. We have only been able to open this world-class 5G emulator due to integration between SETsquared, the University of Surrey, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and the Enterprise M3 LEP.”
Start-ups and entrepreneurs will first get a chance to experience the 5G emulator through SETsquared’s Entrepreneurship Training Programme, taking place on 2 and 3 February 2017. The two-day hands-on course funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will cover all the essential elements of starting a business, including problem/solution fit, routes to market, identifying the opportunity and financial fundamentals.
Adrian Braine, entrepreneur-in-residence at SETsquared’s innovation hub in Basingstoke, said: “The new 5G emulator has brought a wealth of opportunities for digital start-ups. Having access to a world-leading facility such as this right on their doorstep will allow businesses to grow, develop new products and explore the next generation of mobile.”
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Leader Cllr Clive Sanders said: “This is an amazing opportunity for the borough, especially for start-ups and smaller firms, to be at the forefront of this world-leading technology. There is a real drive to establish this area as a leader in 5G. The world focus is on Surrey University and the innovative development of this cutting-edge technology.
“By working closely with the university and Enterprise M3, we are harnessing the benefits for our business community. Basing View’s enterprise zone status and the work that SETsquared is doing to support entrepreneurs gives us the chance to use this test bed to expand and grow digital businesses here.”
5G network connections are faster than any previous version, with the download of a full HD movie taking under 10 seconds to download. Small businesses such as start-ups and scale-ups would usually not have access to a facility of this kind, with many 5G test-beds only available to large corporates.
Alex Cowan, CEO at Basing View-based cyber-security start-up RazorSecure, said: “I am really excited about the opportunities that having a 5G emulator in Basingstoke will bring for new businesses and investment. Connected Transport is an important market for RazorSecure and Basingstoke can really be at the cutting edge of research in that area.”