West Midlands 5G awards O2 contract to launch UK’s first 5G accelerators



West Midlands 5G (WM5G) Limited has awarded a major contract to a consortium led by Telefonica UK (O2) to build 5G accelerators in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry. The other consortium members include Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult. 

WM5G is the organisation delivering the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed, backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). 

Today (March 27), Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, will be hosting a live webinar during which WM5G, its consortium members and businesses from the region will share their exciting vision for a 5G future. Today’s event will be followed by the launch of two more accelerators in both Wolverhampton and Coventry later this year. All three facilities will be branded as 5PRING.

The three 5G accelerator facilities will comprise of centrally-located office and demonstration spaces with access to cutting-edge 5G technology, both indoors and outdoors, extending several kilometres.  

Each venue will have access to private 5G networks – enabling businesses and public sector organisations to experiment with 5G features that aren’t yet commercially released.  This will be combined with the latest devices, professional advice and technical support. 

By using the 5G accelerators, businesses and public sector organisations will be able to experience a live 5G network, discover the benefits that 5G can bring to their organisation and work with innovators to take advantage of 5G through new applications and services. 

At least 2,000 private sector businesses and public sector organisations from across the West Midlands and beyond will be able to benefit from using the 5G accelerators over the next five years. 

WM5G and its consortium members are reviewing the precise nature of how they will launch these 5G accelerator facilities to businesses – including remote access options – in-line with the Government’s advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and more information will follow shortly. 

Unlike 5G R&D facilities, the 5G accelerators will be designed specifically to attract businesses and entrepreneurs to solve major problems and opportunities that can be commercially scaled, when proven.  

Many events and engagement activities run at the 5G accelerators will be sponsored by technology companies or other major businesses, so that SMEs and other organisations can participate for free. The O2-led consortium is more than matching the public sector funding provided by WM5G to launch these facilities. 

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I am delighted that the West Midlands is to be the first region in the UK to launch these cutting edge 5G innovation centres.

"These new centres will allow thousands of businesses and organisations across the region to experience 5G first-hand, and this will be a great advertisement for the West Midlands as we look to encourage more businesses to relocate here.” 

Derek McManus, COO at O2, added: “O2 has championed 5G business innovation for a while now and we are incredibly pleased to have been awarded this contract.

"Being able to help businesses in the West Midlands realise the potential of 5G is a fantastic opportunity and something we are excited to bring our expertise to. Our own consortium – alongside our collaborators, Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult – worked very hard to win this contract and we look forward to bringing this to life.” 

Robert Franks, Managing Director at WM5G, added: “The West Midlands has a proud heritage leading the previous industrial revolution. Through the 5G accelerators that we’re launching in partnership with O2 and its consortium, our region is in prime position to lead the next industrial revolution.” 

Jane Whitlock, Practice Senior Partner for Deloitte in the Midlands, added: “There is a clear market demand from our clients and the business community as a whole to better understand both the short and long-term financial and social benefits of 5G. The 5G accelerators are pivotal to the project’s success and we are excited to be part of the consortium that is leading the way in 5G innovation.” 

Jeremy Silver, CEO at Digital Catapult, added: "5G is exciting, transformative and different from everything that has gone before it. Digital Catapult's work over the last four years, building 5G testbeds and working with start-ups to help refine products to take advantage of all that 5G has to offer, has prepared us well to get to work in the West Midlands.

"The industrial opportunity to transform existing services and create entirely new ones is an opportunity to accelerate the growth of businesses in the region and develop their global competitiveness. We're excited to work in the West Midlands with our consortium members to the ultimate benefit of over 2,000 companies." 

Bruno Moraes, Country Manager at Wayra UK, added: “5G brings unparalleled innovation opportunities for businesses in several different sectors and we are thrilled to play a leading role in its development in the UK. 

"We strongly believe that collaboration is a key driver for innovation and we are very excited to bring our expertise in open innovation to create a world-leading 5G innovation centre in the West Midlands together with such an amazing group of collaborators."

Further details about how to engage with the accelerators are available, here.

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