Advanced communications can provide a vital boost to Scotland’s economic development
First published in FutureScot; By Luca Campanalonga
Rarely has there been a period of such rapid development as the one we are currently experiencing in digital communications.
Technology that would have been the reserve of science fiction 25 years ago has become an extremely accessible part of everyday life and 5G connectivity is right at the heart of that.
Although most of us are familiar with 5G being what powers our mobile internet and keeps us connected on the go, it’s a technology that is being used in new and interesting ways by both the public and private sector. It can deliver tremendous benefits for communities and organisations, not only by reducing the digital divide, but also by increasing productivity and nurturing new skills.
How 5G powered broadcast of HM King Charles III’s coronation
For instance, it was Scottish 5G technology that powered the broadcast of HM King Charles III’s coronation. A once-in-a-generation event that, from a logistical point of view, was a challenge. When the King’s grandfather had his coronation in 1937, almost 10 miles of cabling was required to convey footage from the cameras at Westminster Abbey to the transmission centre at Alexandra Palace. This time around though, thanks to 5G technology developed by Neutral Wireless, a spin-out of the University of Strathclyde and a project supported by The Scotland 5G Centre, the connectivity deployment was significantly more straightforward and the solution has been considered by the industry as a breakthrough.
Being able to broadcast from any location is just one example of what 5G applications can do. What’s more, the nature of 5G technology means it can be integrated into any setting, making the business use cases for 5G almost endless. There has never been a better time for organisations to start integrating a proper 5G connectivity policy into their broader digitalisation strategy. In fact, there is a growing number of funding opportunities, across the UK, designed to help organisations and local authorities make that upgrade, and the development of innovations centres such as Scotland’s 5G Centre provides support to organisations trying to make the transition.
5G technology can hold the key to a whole range of innovations that can help improve efficiency and productivity, limit waste and help achieve net-zero targets.
Following the recent release of the Scottish Government’s Digital Innovation Strategy, it’s clear that each of these areas is a priority for Holyrood, but there is still a general lack of appreciation for exactly how beneficial investment in connectivity can be. Now is the moment for organisations, both public and private, to explore what funding is available to support further investment and the opportunities that advanced connectivity can bring.
And there is help out there, with £40 million recently set aside by DSIT to fund UK regions looking to establish themselves as ‘5G Innovation Regions’. In this context, The Scotland 5G Centre can support Local Authorities’ bid applications by providing access to our national suite of state-of-the-art 5G testbeds and technical resources, to accelerate activities that bridge the gap between trials and adoption and demonstrate the benefits to the economy and society.
According to Beauhurst, as of August last year, there were 858 high-growth tech businesses active in Scotland. Combine this with the world-class universities and there is no reason why Scotland shouldn’t be making the most of advanced communications technology.
The future success of 5G in Scotland relies on organisations being ready to take the plunge and embrace it even if it does take them out of their comfort zones. With financial support available and a fertile technology landscape which is producing more and more home-grown, skilled workers, there is real potential for 5G to enable key sectors to work smarter, be more competitive, and ultimately provide a timely boost to the Scottish economy.