Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited (DMSL), Scotland is expected to see a massive increase in areas that get coverage from all four MNOs, increasing this from 42 per cent of Scotland to 72 per cent by 2024. According to Eynon, there is a

need to support local authorities and agencies that historically have had little engagement with MNOs and maximise the leap forward in 4G coverage that SRN will bring. It will be an important litmus test for the Infralink suite of tools. She said: “We want to be there

to be able to provide a ‘go-to’ best practice and balanced starting point for when those engagements with DMSL start to happen.” Te asset register is a more

complex piece of data-driven innovation and will take lon- ger to implement, but there are many pioneers in this area that Infralink is learning from. Already, south of the Border,

West Midlands 5G has established a regional methodology to coordi- nating digital deployments. And in Scotland, Glasgow City Council has created a telecoms unit and portal to offer industry a single point of entry through which it can deliver 5G infrastructure investment. According to Eynon, Infralink

will scale up elements from these initiatives so that they are appli- cable and sustainable at a national level. Tis will start to join up the landscape of connectivity, which is often thought of as being disjointed, and show Scotland as a coherent investment opportunity for MNOs. She said: “We’re looking ahead

to that 5G future where all tech- nologies are working together in a connectivity ecosystem. Extended 4G roll-out will build off the fibre backbone that is going to be in rural areas as a result of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broad- band and Reaching 100 per cent (R100) programmes. Tat in turn will create a strong basis for a 5G overlay network. If we can solve some of the cur-

rent challenges faced by 4G, then it will go a long way to accelerat- ing 5G, with Scotland being ready for the killer 5G business-use cases when they come along.” l FUTURESCOT | WINTER 2020/21 | 63

Why 5G will change everything

Paul Coffey on the how the Scotland 5G Centre will harness connectivity for innovation


When Paul Coffey signed up to lead the Scotland 5G Centre, little did he expect to spend his first nine months in a new country staring out of his window. Having moved from the

south of England at the begin- ning of the year to take on an exciting and high-profile new role, he found himself instead locked down in Glasgow. “It’s been an interesting on-board- ing. I moved to Scotland and haven’t made it to the office yet!” he says, glancing over his shoulder at a gloomy sky. Te Scotland 5G Centre

was set up by the Scottish Government last year to try to harness next generation mobile connectivity for the purposes of innovation in business and industry. Coffey was a natural choice for chief executive: he has spent 25 years in the telecoms sector – starting with Orange on a graduate trainee programme in the 1990s – and has seen at first hand the incremental benefits delivered by 2G, 3G and 4G, as well as the increasing sophistication of devices. Each step has largely been a

“consumer play”, he says, ow- ing to the fact that more band- width and processing power has allowed smartphones to handle larger volumes of data, enabling people to watch video and stream internet content. Where 5G departs from the norm is in its ability to go fur-

ther. It can go into the realms of advanced manufacturing, healthcare or agriculture in ways that are potentially trans- formative. In technical terms, that

means connecting up to one million devices per square kilo- metre, compared to 100,000 with 4G, which will provide the underpinning fabric for machine-to-machine com- munications, supporting the Industrial Internet of Tings (IIoT) and the emergence of smart cities. In a local context, Scotland 5G Centre has already funded work at the Univer- sity of Glasgow to build a ‘5G ecosystem’, which has included the development of a robotic arm for manufacturing. Coffey says: “Te use cases

for 5G are evolving all the time but what I think the University of Glasgow project demon- strates is how well-suited the technology is to automating complex tasks, remotely, which has a particular salience right now. When it comes to data, 5G is able to do the heavy lifting at a scale that has not been pos- sible before. He adds: “For me, 5G is an

enabler. We can do things faster and with less latency, but it’s what you put on top of it that will be transformative. It’s not that a network goes from 100Mbps to 10Gbps, it’s that crunching of data in real-time at the edge of a network, it’s those things that will enable new use cases to be developed

and create a step change in the path to true digital transforma- tion.” Tose use cases are not

confined to automation in in- dustry, he adds. In healthcare, integrating data sets from social housing – such as damp levels – with wearable devices that are monitoring people’s long- term lung conditions, suddenly becomes a possibility. “Imagine a world where you can say, okay I’m getting all this data in real-time, I’m sensing all this information in real-time, I can make decisions in real-time, I can intervene in real-time. From a health authority per- spective, that is very different from the world we live in now where I pick up the phone and have an appointment with the doctor next week.” But the proof, as always, is

in the pudding. Tat is why the Scotland 5G Centre is overseeing the £4m Scottish Government-backed S5GCon- nect Programme, which will establish a network of innova- tion hubs across the country. Te Forth Valley Hub in Alloa will be the first of the hubs, opening in May 2021, with a project focusing on developing a ‘green data recovery plat- form’, supporting Scotland’s net zero aspirations. Others will come on-stream over the course of the next 12 months, but the focus really is on knowledge exchange between academia and business, which will be pivotal to Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery. Coffey says: “What the

Chief executive Paul Coffey: “5G is an enabler”

Scotland 5G centre is about is accelerating services into com- mercial use. We’re very much focused on those activities. We’re working with academia and taking some of those concepts in order to work with industry and Scottish SMEs, entrepreneurs, and say what does this mean for vertical markets such as health or manufacturing, and how can we bring those ideas to life.” l

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