The U.K. government is launching a 5G testbed and trial competition as part of its efforts to jumpstart new technology development in the country, with nearly $33 million available in the nationwide contest.

Proposals for 5G testbeds and trials can receive grant funding up to around $6.5 million per project — which have to involve both a testbed and a trial, not one or the other. The competition is part of the nearly $975 million National Productivity Investment Fund that the United Kingdom has established in order to support 5G and full-fiber technology in the country.

“To stay competitive we must be at the cutting edge of new technology and we are determined to be one of the first countries in the world to use 5G,” said Minister for Digital Matt Hancock in a statement on the program. “In these very early stages we want all ideas, from all parts of the country, that will help us get the technology and the roll-out right to have a nationwide network of 5G innovators.”

Projects have to address one of four aspects: the potential for 5G to deliver benefits for businesses; new 5G applications and services; new business models around 5G technologies; or reducing commercial risk for 5G investment. Acknowledging that “5G” is still pre-standard, the government said that it would assume that for the purposes of the competition, 5G characteristics include systems that are “largely wireless”, “mainly terrestrial”, and “have capabilities significantly beyond today’s commercially available 4G networks”. Usage scenarios are expected to include either enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications, or ultra-reliable and low latency communications — or more than one of those three. The systems can make use of spectrum below 6 GHz or above 24 GHz.

Applications for the first phase of the contest will be accepted Oct. 23 through Dec. 13. The list of eligibility requirements is short: applicants must be U.K. citizens, carry out the work in the U.K.; and collaborate with others. Groups outside the U.K. can participate, but they won’t receive grant funding and must be part of a collaboration with at least two grant recipients. Participants also have to be able to deliver “substantive elements” of the project by within the 2018/2019 timeframe, and the grant-funded portions by March 31, 2019. The competition guidelines advise that grant applicants “should be at an advanced state of readiness before you apply for this competition” and expect to have short build cycles.


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