West Midlands to focus on digital health after winning bid to become first UK 5G test area

The West Midlands has won the bid to become the first multi-city 5G testbed in the UK, with a new project set to develop hubs to pilot 5G applications and services in Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

[West Midlands, UK] The West Midlands will become the UK's first multi-city 5G test area in a trial set to lay the foundations for a national rollout.  

The West Midlands Combined Authority's initial bid covers the automotive, construction and health sectors - which looks at enabling hospital outpatient appointments and emergency consultations to be carried out by video link.

It also outlines a vision for ‘connected ambulances’ that would see paramedics access specialist advice through video conferencing while they are at the scene of an incident and allow livestreaming of patient data from an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, said the announcement was 'game-changing for the West Midlands economy'.

“From monitoring the health of babies and the elderly, to the way our people are linked to the economy of the future, the way companies do business, the way we deliver public services, the experience of travellers on public transport and the way we deliver City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games – everything can be made better thanks to the power of this technology [5G],” he added.

Up to £50m have reportedly been made available for the project so far - £25m from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and £25m in matched funding from partners in the region.

This is, however, subject to further development and approval of the business plan, and the DCMS says a further £25m ‘may be made available at a later stage’.

It is thought the funding will come from the £200m assigned by the government to develop 5G technologies.

Margot James, Minister for Digital, said:

“5G has the potential to dramatically transform the way we go about our daily lives, and we want the citizens of the UK to be amongst the first to experience all the opportunities and benefits this new technology will bring. The West Midlands Testbed, which is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, will be instrumental in helping us realise this ambition.”

The first projects are expected to go live early next year.

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