The debate about whether the Chinese company, Huawei, should participate in the construction of the United Kingdom’s 5G network has, at least temporarily, diverted attention from the exciting opportunities that 5G itself has to offer.
5G will amount to an exponential improvement in the capacity of the UK’s digital infrastructure. In terms of sheer speed, it represents a massive leap forward, expected to deliver in excess of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) in its earliest stages, around 100 times as fast as 4G. As the technology develops, 5G is expected to speed up to 10 Gbps, fast enough to enable the download of a full-length HD film in only four seconds, as against over seven minutes with 4G.
Just as important, 5G will provide a more available and reliable data transfer environment. The old transmitter masts will be augmented with larger numbers of smaller antennae located on buildings and street furniture. 5G will be ubiquitous, leading potentially to the end of landlines, and the banishment from homes and offices of today’s technological clutter, such as cables and routers.
5G will power the so-called “internet of things”, connecting computers with equipment such televisions and even refrigerators and coffee makers. Driverless cars, too, will be facilitated by the new wireless technology. For the first time, we will inhabit a truly smart environment.
Such developments will be particularly important in areas such as North Wales where, because of the difficulties of topography, many communities have been “not spots” for broadband access. 5G has the potential to remedy this, but only if its infrastructure can be provided. And that means lots of fibre to connect the new 5G antennae.
Fortunately, the resources to fund the fibre connections are available now, thanks to the North Wales Growth Deal. This initiative of the Treasury has led to a commitment of £120 million funding from HM Government, with a similar amount pledged by the administration in Cardiff.
The shape of the Growth Deal is currently under discussion. I have no doubt that 5G should be a major focus, to enable all of North Wales to benefit from this new and exciting technology.