Bristol’s 5G expertise helps secure West of England 5m Smart Tourism bid

The West of England Combined Authority has secured £5 million from government to trial a superfast 5G network at tourist destinations in Bristol and Bath. The University of Bristol’s world-leading expertise on telecommunications and pioneering research on 5G technologies and networks has been pivotal in defining and delivering the Smart Tourism Bid.

The project will build upon the 5G network already developed by the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab, through earlier DCMS funding, to establish experimentation capabilities for digital innovation.

The trial will see 5G infrastructure put in place at the Roman Baths in Bath, M Shed and in and around We The Curious and Millennium Square in Bristol.

“Imagine a virtual Roman soldier showing you around the Roman Baths,” said West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles. “Now imagine this moving 360 degrees on your mobile phone at a resolution you have never experienced before - that’s what 5G technology can offer.

“The 5G Smart Tourism bid will allow us to trial some exciting technology at our top tourist attractions, whilst looking at wider and longer-term benefits for our region. This new technology holds the key to a more advanced, sustainable and smart future which will revolutionise the way we all live, travel and work.”

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries said: "The next generation of connectivity is set to transform business and society, and the Government is committed to ensuring the UK is fit for a 5G future.

"Smart tourism is just one of the projects we’re funding to drive this forward, and I look forward to its exploration of the innovative ways 5G can boost the West of England’s fantastic tourism experiences."

Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said “We’re proud to be part of this innovation; which supports our commitment to providing 21st Century technology across Bath. We hope it will enhance the experience for people visiting such heritage gems as the Roman Baths.”

5G is set to be the largest step forward for mobile network technology yet, offering much faster speeds than 4G. It won’t be used for human communication alone; it will also support communications between things humans have invented, forming the ‘Internet of Things’. This will have a huge impact on people’s lives, supporting everything from driverless cars to smarter homes. The trial will look at this wider impact and how the West of England can become a smart region, using new technology to link up our transport and homes, hospitals and schools.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Director Smart Internet Lab, University of Bristol said: “We are delighted to be working towards the delivery of the world’s first end-to-end 5G testbeds with our partners at 5GIC, Surrey and Kings’ College London. At Bristol, we have developed an open and lasting testbed for 5G experimentation in the city’s Millennium square. We have worked with our Technology partners BT, Nokia, CCSL and Zeetta Networks and have engaged with our Digital Creative sector to showcase the 5G technical capabilities and transformational potential. We are now keen to support the Phase 1 5G Testbeds and Trials projects by offering access to our infrastructure, skills and knowledge.”

Professor Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is great news - 5G offers significant business growth opportunities for our tech sector. The West of England is well placed to become a smart region - we are home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London, and our businesses and universities are at the forefront of innovation in next generation networks including 5G.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol , said: “This is great news for the city-region. In Bristol we know the importance of developing new technologies in order to empower our citizens and create a well-connected city. Our work with the University of Bristol to develop the city’s platform for cutting edge 5G research was mentioned recently when Bristol was announced as one of the world’s leading smart cities of the future.

“This announcement of further funding will help Bristol to continue being an internationally recognised testbed for new technologies which is already helping us to find real new innovative solutions to help our city pave the way to become a more inclusive and fairer society.”