Academic excellence, a world-class 5G test network and significant investment makes the South West a telecoms powerhouse
Bristol has a well-established telecoms reputation, particularly in photonics and compound semiconductors. While Cornwall has a burgeoning space cluster, with an impressive 164% growth in the space sector since 2010. Dorset is also establishing itself as a leading rural locaiton for digital innovation, read more here. Significant investment has also been made in growing quantum in the region, which is also home to GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre and the Cyber Security Operations Centre in Corsham protecting the Ministry of Defence’s cyberspace.
dedicated to developing the quantum industry in the region.
Value of Bristol's 5G test network to the local economy by 2030
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Technologies & trends
The region boasts expertise and capabilities in a number of key telecom fields. Learn more about the relevant technologies.
The potential benefits of 5G, future wireless generations and full-fibre digital connectivity can only be realised if we have confidence in the resilience of our infrastructure.
Security features prominently in business and academia across the South West, home to both GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre and the Cyber Security Operations Centre in Corsham. The South West Cyber Security Cluster is a volunteer-led and government-supported initiative dedicated to improving cyber security skills development, SME business protection and innovation across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. The region is also home to the UK’s first pan-defence and security cluster. The South West Regional Defence and Security Cluster is a collaboration led by industry and academia with the support of the Ministry of Defence and its innovation directorate, and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
The region also boasts strong academic capabilities in the security space. The University of Bristol Cyber Security Group is part of the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research at Bristol. The group conducts cutting edge research focused on: security of cyber-physical infrastructures, software security and the role of human behaviours in cyber security. While the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Cyber Security, Communications and Network Research is an established inter-disciplinary group conducting research in digital forensics, maritime cyber threats, human aspects of cyber security and networking and communications.
Wireless networking is experiencing a period of exciting change with the development of new generations from 5G to 6G, WiFi 6 and 7, offering new use cases and business cases that extend far beyond just faster speeds.
The Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol is a renowned Information and Communications Technology (ICT) research centre. With leading experts on 5G radio / wireless and networks the lab fuses research expertise and innovation in a range of research areas such as: IoT, 5G & Beyond, Future Transport Networks, Smart Cities, Autonomous Networks, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Network, Convergence, Mobile Edge Computing and Network Softwarisation.
The lab runs the Bristol 5G test network and the region has been home to a number of prominent 5G innovation projects including 5G Logistics at Bristol Port, 5G Smart Tourism at the Roman Baths in Bath and the West of England Combined Authority’s Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator. Plus seven live projects involving the University of Bristol, South-West based companies or trials in the region.
There are also a number of well respected and recognised consultancies and businesses in the wireless networking space, across the Silicon Gorge region.
Core networks are critical infrastructure and new digital technologies and trends have the potential to disrupt and transform, ensuring capabilities, resilience and performance can meet emerging and future needs.
A number of innovation projects across the region are focused on core networking technologies, including BEACON-5G, O-RANOS, Proteus, Towards AI Powered and Secure Carrier-Grade Open RAN Platform that are all focused on 5G, and REASON, focused on 6G.
Non-terrestrial networking (NTN) refers to any network that involves space or airborne elements, including satellite communication networks, high-altitude platform systems (HAPS), and air-to-ground networks.
Cornwall Space Cluster is a vibrant centre for non-terrestrial networking, with a dedicated horizontal launch site, the world’s most capable satellite ground station, deep space communications, EO and flight testing. The Satellite Applications Catapult has its Ground Station at Goonhilly, the home of satellite communications. The facility provides users with a ‘bring-your-own solution’ where third party equipment can be installed, offering a high level of connectivity, and data can be transmitted to the Catapult’s facilities in Harwell.
The Bristol-based O-RANOS project is implementing novel backhauling and neutral hosting services with a particular focus on satellite backhaul (mainly GEO and LEO constellations) for connecting to different core vendors.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is disrupting industry on a broad scale and the telecoms sector is no exception, with Valuates projecting that the global AI in telecoms market size will reach $14.99B by 2027, up from $11.89B in 2020.
The Bristol Digital Futures Institute draws together expertise from within and outside the University of Bristol, working to fundamentally transform digital innovation, and create more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous futures for all. Their three-year Explainable AI project is exploring how to open up the operation of machine learning and automated decision making for businesses that use these methods and the public that are affected by them.
Bristol-based O-RANOS project is leveraging the rApps and xApps development framework in the O-RAN Alliance specifications to develop x and r application templates that will enable APIs to interact with Machine Learning production models. While the REASON project is developing advanced solutions for network-edge and network-wide automation that leverage state-of-the art AI techniques. And the Towards AI Powered and Secure Carrier-Grade Open RAN Platform project, part-based in Bath, is using AI / ML-based analytics to lower the cost of operations for OpenRAN network functions.
From batteries and sensors to antennas and lasers, the telecoms industry makes use of a broad range of materials and components such as copper, aluminium, ceramics and silicon, demonstrating diversification and innovation in the supply chain.
The Silicon Gorge-the South West region of Bristol, Swindon and Gloucester-is home to several high-tech and research companies and universities. Within the region a number of companies produce semiconductors, while University of Bristol undertakes significant research in the field, including partnering with the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult.
Optical communication refers to the use of light to carry a communication signal to the remote end, instead of an electrical current.
The South West has an impressive reputation in optical communications and photonics. The University of Bristol's Smart Internet Lab includes internationally-recognised experts in optical communications. While the university's Photonics and Quantum group is pursuing world leading research topics leading to cheaper, faster information and communication technologies.
Torbay is home to the Electronics and Photonics Innovation Lab which offers an unrivalled technical capability to support R&D, Design and New Product Development in Photonics.
Diversification of the telecoms supply chain is ultimately about choice, a desire to broaden the choice of equipment and solution providers in the sector-driven by commercial, technical and geopolitical factors.
The South West is exceptionally well represented across a range of diversification projects: University of Bristol leads the REASON project and participates in O-RANOS and, alongside Bristol based Parallel Wireless, Proteus. South Gloucestershire Council is part of the BEACON-5G consortium; the Towards AI Powered and Secure Carrier-Grade Open RAN Platform project is partly located in Bath and the Best of British RAN Development project is running trials in the Chalke Valley.
Deploying 5G in Places
We've spoken to local authorities up and down the UK, to hear first hand how they've approached digital infrastructure and connectivity programmes. Designed to be both practical and pragmatic, we've collated insights, assets and guides that can be replicated and adapted to help you on your journey to 5G.