The UK will benefit from GBP 14.8 billion in additional economic growth if it can seize the full potential of 5G networks and implement advanced industrial use cases, over and above the substantial benefits expected from enhanced mobile broadband, according to an independent report from research firm Analysys Mason.
The study, commissioned by Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, provides a cost-benefit analysis of 5G by market segment. Notably, over three quarters of the total projected additional economic growth from 5G will be driven by three industries: manufacturing (GBP 5.2bn), construction (GBP 4.2bn), and agriculture (GBP 2.2bn).
In addition to forecasting an over five-time return on investment for companies investing in 5G as an open innovation platform, the report outlines numerous social and environmental benefits the next generation network technology could deliver.
John Griffin, Head of Ericsson UK & Ireland, says: ”This new research shows that 5G technology will be a foundation for the UK’s future as it recovers from COVID-19 and builds a world leading digital economy. As an open innovation platform, 5G will accelerate digital transformation and help the UK establish a truly global leadership position in the industries and technologies of the future. Ericsson is already leading the deployment of 5G in the UK and is committed to developing the early use cases that will deliver the economic, social and environmental returns to build a sustainable and resilient infrastructure for future generations.”
UK’s 5G-powered growth
The report provides a glimpse of what the UK’s future powerhouse industries might look like. Use cases include thousands of connected sensors to allow for unprecedented monitoring of factories, crops, and construction sites; remotely controlled and autonomous vehicles such as forklifts and tractors; extended reality (XR) to enhance worker capabilities and advanced collaborative robotics, such as drones, for surveillance of livestock or building sites.
The UK’s first 5G factory, launched by Worcester Bosch, is demonstrating some of these possibilities already with real-time machine sensors to reduce downtime and increase product safety, while Ford and Siemens are adding 5G-powered low latency connectivity and private networks to help improve productivity and efficiency within existing factory systems.
5G could underpin ‘green recovery’
Alongside levelling up the UK’s economy, 5G can also be central in creating a more sustainable economy, a key priority for the UK Government, which has committed to placing sustainability at the heart of its economic recovery plans to ’build back greener’.
The areas in which 5G is expected to have the most significant positive environmental impact for the UK are in more efficient and lower-carbon farming, reducing unnecessary waste or excessive use of fertiliser, and in freight by facilitating ’just-in-time’ supply chains and more efficient transport of goods.
UK in danger of falling short in 5G leadership and innovation
The report highlights several challenges the UK faces in realising the full benefits of 5G. Despite being an early leader in launching 5G networks, the estimated 5G population coverage in the UK was most recently circa 30 per cent, placing it around the average for European countries where 5G has been launched. This places the UK well behind leaders Switzerland and Finland, and level with countries such as Denmark and Sweden.
The paper makes several specific recommendations on UK policy that would help the country accelerate its 5G adoption, including:
- Ramping up the availability and uptake of 5G infrastructure for use in priority sectors relating to production and logistics, such as manufacturing, freight and utilities, that will see the largest and most significant benefits
- Extending 5G coverage further into rural areas
- Encouraging operators to roll out high-density networks to provide very high capacity for 5G in urban applications, such as construction