5G trials are expected to take place in the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton

The U.K. government has selected the West Midlands to host the country’s first multi-city 5G test bed, which will pave the way for the future rollout of 5G across the U.K.

The Urban Connected Communities Project, the next step in the Government’s 5G testbed and trials program, will develop a large-scale, 5G pilot across the region, with hubs in the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

Following its selection, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will now work with the 5G testbeds and trials team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and industry partners on preparing the formal business case for approval, with the first of a series of projects expected to go live early next year.

The government highlighted that up to £50 million ($64.5 million) is currently available for the project, subject to further development and approval of business plans. Other cities which took place in the open competition were Leeds, Sheffield, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

“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 realize this ambition,” said Minister for Digital Margot James.

“This announcement is game-changing for the West Midlands economy. This will be the backbone of our future economy and society,” said Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands. “The 5G testbeds and trials program forms part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, aimed at continually driving the UK’s connectivity, telecommunications and digital sectors, and investing in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future,” he added.

The local authorities will initially focus on use cases in the health, construction and automotive sectors. The trials will include hospital outpatient appointments conducted over high-speed video links, and live-streaming CCTV footage from public buses to police that will use “intelligent cameras” for monitoring. Jaguar Land Rover also plans to use the network to trial driverless cars.

West Midlands also expects to launch “connected ambulances” that live stream patient data and provide video links back to specialists in the hospital.

Earlier this year, U.K. operators obtained spectrum for the future provision of 5G services. Vodafone won 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band after paying £378 million.

BT-owned EE won 40 megahertz for which it paid £303 million. Three secured 20 megahertz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £151.3 million, while Telefónica-owned O2 picked up 40 megahertz for £318m.

Vodafone recently announced plans to carry out 5G trials in seven cities across the UK during the last quarter of 2018. The telco said the 5G trials will take place in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester. The trials are set to begin between October and December 2018.

Rival telco EE also announced plans to launch what it claims to be the U.K.’s first live 5G trial network in East London in October.

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