Telecommunications company Arqiva and Samsung are teaming up to test 5G broadband in Britain, which could result in a wireless alternative to the fibre service currently offered by BT Openreach.
Best known for operating 8,000 mobile phone masts around the country, Arqiva will be trialling their 5G fixed-wireless technology in central London.
The company hold a license for the 28GHz spectrum band in the UK, which is the same frequency that trials in US, Japan and South Korea used for 5G. It’s worth noting that this is marginally higher than the range suggested by regulators Ofcom.
Despite the move suggesting Arqiva would be going head-to-head with BT, they were quick to point out that these trials do not guarantee a permanent move into the consumer sector. Chief Executive Simon Beresford-Wylie stressed “We are not competing for their customers.”
He added: “5G will be a crucial pillar of the UK’s economy in the 2020s. The smarter network infrastructure and an enhanced ability to support exponential scale for connectivity will open the doors to further applications across a variety of markets such as IoT, industrial applications and the full promise of autonomous vehicles.”
He continued: “Our trial with Samsung will demonstrate the enormous potential of 5G FWA as an alternative to fibre for delivering ultra-high speed connectivity to homes and businesses.”
The 5G trial was unsurprisingly welcomed by the government, who have pledged to make a better-connected Britain part of their post-Brexit plan.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: “The government wants the UK to be a world leader in 5G and we’re already laying the foundations for a successful launch. “
She added: “We are investing £1bn to boost the UK’s digital infrastructure and support 5G trials, and will shortly be publishing our 5G strategy. But industry will continue to play the leading role, and investments like Arqiva’s will help make sure the UK gets the benefits of new 5G networks early on.”
There have been previous efforts to bring a fixed-wireless access service to the capital before, but none have had runaway success. Launched in 2014, Relish attracted only 15,000 customers before being sold to Three for £250 million earlier this year.
After gaining a significant portion of the 28Ghz spectrum, many view this move as Three’s first venture into the broadband and public sector market. Their venture into 5G, alongside the new Arqiva trial, appears to be an indication of where the market is moving.