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Property: Birmingham 5G Is Coming Sooner Than You Think


So much talk, so little actually happening?

The 5G mobile technology revolution sometimes seems to be happening in slo-mo. But more than a year after the West Midlands was designated as one of the UK's 5G test beds, there is some serious achievement to point to.

Intensive work over the summer meant that Wolverhampton became the first of the region's seven boroughs to achieve 5G readiness with masts and basic infrastructure. Now WM5G, a new organisation set up to deliver the UK’s first region-wide 5G test bed, says Birmingham and Dudley will follow very soon, as infrastructure work accelerates.

WM5G promises big announcements in the new year.

5G will allow multiple high-speed data connections turning the idea of the Internet of Things into a reality. It is hard, or impossible, to predict how this will change life but it is clear that the way commercial floorspace is used will be one of the biggest areas of change.

In September 2019 WM5G appointed Tracy Westall, as one of its new non-executive directors. It was one of a series of high-level hires. Westall has more that 30 years' experience delivering tech innovation.

“I keep telling people 5G is not just about being able to download films faster,” Westall said.

“This technology is still in the startup phase but will clearly play a role in how you plan and organise buildings with the large-scale, real-time data that the Internet of Things will generate. It will mean big changes in building utilisation, and new more dynamic property management.

“West Midlands landlords and developers need to think of this as normal business planning. A normal evolution expenditure which will give them a competitive advantage if they are first,” Westall said. “The difficulty today is that 5G is basically the plumbing for a new way of working, and it isn't exciting unless you are really into plumbing.”

Announcements due in the early 2020 include extending test bed trials into various business sectors, including construction and mobility. There will also be work to accelerate development work on the apps that will help turn the 5G plumbing into Internet of Things reality.

“2019 was about foundations, in 2020 we can make what 5G means more tangible, and the West Midlands will be at the forefront,” Westall said.

WM5G has been working on unblocking property barriers to 5G development including permissions and way-leaves.

Collaboration between WM5G, the city council and 5G operators resulted in rapid progress in Wolverhampton, and is now being rolled into Birmingham and Dudley.