But what must the UK communications sector do in order to capitalise on this investment opportunity?
Dr Li-Ke Huang, 5G Research & Technology, Cobham Wireless believes this investment in next generation technology is vital in order for the UK to retain its position as a digital leader in Europe.
It will be needed to deliver the mobile internet access businesses and consumers are demanding, with new applications such as machine-to-machine technology, connected cars and smart cities.
“Research and development centres in the UK are already actively involved in validating core 5G technologies and testing their performance – but we need continual investment to support its evolution, looking at everything from chipsets to network performance,” said Dr Huang.
Jaime Fink, co-founder and CPO of Mimosa Networks believes it is time for telecoms service providers and R&D centres across the UK to be exploring how they can commercialise the technology as rapidly and efficiently as possible.
“In the US, operators such as Verizon have plans to trial 5G in live networks this year. These tests suggest that whereas 4G was a mobile play, 5G will initially be deployed using fixed wireless broadband technology,” said Fink.
But to keep pace with trials and technology developments, the UK must also recognise fixed wireless as the most effective and efficient means of delivery, says Fink.
“The government investment and a focussed programme for 5G development will enable the creation of an efficient digital infrastructure across the nation,” he added.
It is also hoped that next-gen technology can also help fix the various ‘not spots’ across the country, such as commuter rail lines and large parts of rural Britain, which are lacking sufficient connectivity and hindering the growth of the wider UK economy.
Professor Will Stewart, Vice President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology sounded a cautionary note on the 5G investment.
“The Budget investment in a 5G technology hub is welcome – as is the Government’s announcement today of a 5G strategy outlining an integrated approach to combining fibre and wireless networks to deliver 5G.
“But it’s important to stress that the 5G investment announced today will not come anywhere close to bridging the investment gap needed to deliver 5G across the UK – so the Government Strategy’s recognition that regulatory modernisation is needed to make the final bill of delivering 5G more affordable, for example by enabling operators to share networks, is pivotal.
“The biggest challenge for Government will be improving coverage for all, as 5G cannot transform what it doesn’t cover. And achieving universal coverage for the UK, outside high-capacity urban areas, will not be affordable or achievable without regulatory change.
Coinciding with the BUdget announcement, the IET has released a new guide, 5G Networks for Policy Makers, to help identify “the policy levers that need to be pulled for the UK to roll out new 5G networks by 2020 – and get them onto a track to make 5G transformational for the UK economy by 2025”.