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5G set to revolutionise the North East economy

The rollout of 5G across the North East could boost the local economy by hundreds of millions of pounds by 2025, according to a report by Barclays.

The new technology is set to accelerate the transition towards Industry 4.0 within the manufacturing sector, but all industries from distribution to media and professional services to healthcare are set to benefit.

5G is the next generation mobile network technology that could deliver speeds more than 10 times faster than 4G, bringing with it the potential to unlock new technologies and eliminate the need for WiFi.

The move to 5G will be a huge boost for many businesses, improving general operations and communication with customers, but it is likely to be innovation in data-heavy fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things that will benefit the economy most.

Though the full extent of exactly how North East businesses will utilise this new technology to drive innovation remains to be seen, some companies are already excited about the possibilities.

Martin Jackson, head of strategy at Northumbrian Water, thinks the technology is a vital step in the creation of smart cities.

He said: “5G is the driving force behind the fourth industrial revolution and it’s set to completely redefine how we live and work.

“The 5G network will allow everything to be connected, enabling data to flow in near real-time between humans, sensors and machines.

“We’re already trialling a number of smart devices to monitor the water and wastewater network, which will provide benefits for our customers and the environment.

“With 5G, we would be able to supercharge this, better connect our teams, drive smarter operations and use increased automation.”

Last year, mobile network operator EE announced that Newcastle would be one of ten UK cities to receive a 5G network by the end of 2019.

In May, the new technology was rolled-out in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, with plans in place to gradually expand the service over the next few years.

The UK Government has been a key driver of the rollout, making it a key pillar of its Industrial Strategy and pledging £1bn towards supporting digital infrastructure.

Minister for digital and creative industries Margot James said: “The Government is committed to ensuring businesses can harness the power of this revolution in mobile connectivity.

“The benefits [5G could bring] and the potential to add billions to our economy are exactly why we’re investing in the UK’s strong 5G ecosystem.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we’re focussed on delivering real-world benefits from 5G in important sectors of the UK economy – providing new services, increasing productivity and improving quality of life.”

Despite this focus from the government, many business leaders are still unaware of how the new technology could benefit them, with just 15% thinking about how they could utilise 5G according to the Barclays report.

Sean Duffy, head of technology, media, and telecoms at Barclays, said: “While the Government and network providers are already working hard to rollout 5G in the UK, we found that businesses do not yet have enough clarity about how they will benefit in the long-run.

“What’s more, nearly four in ten business leaders still aren’t entirely sure what 5G is.

“To ensure the UK can realise the full potential of an accelerated rollout, the Government, mobile operators and other corporate partners must raise awareness amongst businesses so they can harness 5G.

“This support is crucial for businesses to make smart investments which will unlock the power of 5G.”