Harwell Campus is to be the site for a new national 5G and satellite technology testing facility.
The engineering hub, backed by more than £3m of Government investment, is due for completion next year.
Providing a base for UK researchers and businesses, it will provide a testing facility that can show the benefits of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks.
The hope is that once the technology has been demonstrated, techniques can be rolled out to other businesses across the UK.
5G connectivity offers faster data speeds and less latency across networks. It is hoped this low latency — the millisecond gap between action and reaction — will accelerate the green revolution aimed at tackling the climate crisis.
It should also help vehicles to swap data almost instantly, which can aid navigation and, for example, mean a car can begin to apply the brakes before a driver is even aware of an accident.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “This new state-of-the-art facility backed by government funding will enable our brightest researchers and engineers to better understand how 5G can help connect us all, creating new business opportunities, while delivering green efficiencies across the UK.”
5G is relevant to a broad range of applications including Internet of Things technology, where chips in devices ‘talk’ to one another and augmented reality, and could benefit manufacturing, public safety, enterprise and communications software and entertainment and gaming.
Experts hope 5G will bring greater efficiencies in everything from medicine and manufacturing to farming and will also be a quick, affordable way of bringing a fast data network to places where cables will not reach, from remote villages to disaster zones.
The new Harwell facility will develop software that allows satellite networks, including low earth orbit networks, to be integrated into terrestrial public and private communications networks. This is expected to create new business opportunities for application developers and mobile network providers.
The centre will be built by IT and business consultancy CGI and is being backed by a European Space Agency contract. As part of the development, CGI is working with BT, Avanti Communications and Surrey University on a project to see how it can connect rural communities to 5G in the most affordable way possible.
Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications and integrated applications at the European Space Agency, said: “ESA’s novel 5G Hub will showcase how space technology enables connectivity, partnering with industry to foster innovation in the realms of autonomous vehicles and smart cities, and to enable machines to exchange information with one another via the internet of things.
“Adding satellites to existing terrestrial 5G infrastructure is essential to ensure a reliable and safe telecommunications network that supports such connectivity, which in turn promotes a seamless and more environmentally friendly experience. Investing in space improves life on Earth.”