Oxfordshire to benefit from major investment in 5G

Oxfordshire will become part of a new 5G innovation region, after Oxfordshire County Council secured £3.8 million of funding from the government. 

The money will be invested initially in two major 5G projects – East West Rail between Bicester and Bletchley, and Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

The county council led the joint funding bid on behalf of nine other councils – Buckinghamshire, all Berkshire’s unitary authorities, Central Bedfordshire, and Cambridgeshire – and will now work closely with them on a 5G project called England’s Connected Heartland.

Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We’re committed to working with other local authorities and partners to maximise our chances of securing investment in digital connectivity and telecoms innovation.

“Today’s announcement is testament to the benefits of such an approach, allowing us to demonstrate the benefits of 5G, making Oxfordshire and surrounding counties a heartland for sustainable economic growth.”

Sir John Whittingdale, Minister of Data and Digital Infrastructure, said: "We’re channelling millions into local areas to unlock the potential of cutting-edge 5G wireless and digital technologies, which will reshape our public services, drive economic growth and boost innovation. This new fund will give local areas from across the country the opportunity to be at the forefront of Britain’s world-leading 5G revolution.

“For instance, by using 5G for farming and creating science parks, we're not just helping local communities, but also encouraging new ideas all over the UK. This is more than just linking smartphones. It's about using powerful digital connections to transform various sectors in the economy and the public sector throughout the entire country.”

East West Rail project between Bicester and Bletchley

The rail industry in the UK is in the process of evaluating new connectivity options for both track operations and passenger access to fast reliable onboard WiFi. England’s Connected Heartland project aims to demonstrate how these requirements may be met through a pilot 5G network, which will also provide trackside communities and businesses with improved connectivity.

The project will explore how 5G can be used to improve farm productivity along the route.

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus

Oxfordshire County Council plans to create a private 5G network that covers the entire Harwell campus. It has already held discussions with several organisations on site including the European Space Agency (ESA), UK Space Agency, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). They are all supportive of building a 5G network.

Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director, Innovation Clusters and Harwell Campus at UKRI-STFC, said: “We look forward to supporting the project team on the plan to build a full private 5G network across the whole of Harwell Campus, which will facilitate innovation options for our world leading clusters in energy tech, space, quantum and health tech.”

The European Space Agency’s recent work includes using satellites to deliver non-terrestrial 5G connectivity. It is one of the companies at Harwell that will be using the 5G technology.

Professor Antonio Franchi, Head of Space for the 5G and 6G Strategic Programme at the European Space Agency, Harwell Campus, said: “We are delighted with the success of this funding bid and the resulting plan to build a 5G network here at Harwell Science Park.

“We intend to further develop solutions at our 5G/6G Innovation Hub that will help to drive 5G digital transformation of the European economy, showcase UK businesses at the forefront of emerging space technologies, catalyse investment into the sector and enhance collaboration with international partners. We look forward to the role this hub may have in enhancing collaborative innovation across England’s Connected Heartland.”


Notes to editor

How 5G supports sustainable economic growth

Innovation and advanced technologies rely on a world class digital infrastructure. 5G, with faster and more reliable internet access, supports productivity across various industries on various devices. This increased productivity can lead to additional GDP growth and the creation of new jobs. Better connectivity also brings environmental benefits, such as reduced energy and natural resource consumption due to less travel and increased remote working. Clean growth means growing the national income while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, Internet of Things (IoT) and automation integration enhance manufacturing processes enable smart cities and support the development of emerging technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality.

The establishment of the Oxfordshire-led 5G innovation region called England’s Connected Heartland is an important part of the government’s commitment to advancing telecommunications innovation. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s mission is to deliver stronger growth, better jobs and bold discoveries through innovation and investment in advanced technologies. The UK's telecoms networks serve as the backbone of the economy, influencing how business is conducted, accessing public services, enjoying entertainment and maintaining connectivity.

Internet of things (IoT)

Describes devices with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet or other communications networks.

Watch a short video from the government about the rollout of 5G, below:


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