Do we need 5G in Bournemouth?

Do we need 5G in Bournemouth? Silicon South Director Anthony Story discusses the potential it offers for the tech, digital and creative sectors in his submission to the BCP committee.

The tech, digital and creative industries sector makes up 7% of Dorset businesses, contributing 6% of GVA and employing 8000 people. Silicon South is very encouraged by the transformational potential of the introduction of 5G to BCP. Whilst this is a technology in its early stages, there is little doubt that it has the capability to make a major impact and deliver new opportunities to increase the contribution the sector delivers to the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP).

The prospects for 5G to support public sector transformation, improve social outcomes and quality of life are significant; however, we are seeing a revolution in technology use across all industries. The introduction of technologies such as the Internet of Things, micro payment systems, blockchain/ distributed ledger etc. are opening up new opportunities that can be delivered by instant and superfast communication – as delivered by 5G. This is blurring the traditional divide with the digital and tech sector. We are seeing the need for our sector to work ever more closely with the other industries, such as Finance & Professional services (£3bil GVA in BCP); Engineering & Manufacturing (£573mil GVA in BCP) and Tourism/hospitality (45k employees in Dorset LEP area)

Introducing the skills and knowledge of our sector to these other industries is enabling them to make step changes in increasing efficiency and profitability. But this does not happen by introducing the right skills alone; they also need to have access to the latest technology.

In terms of skills, Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole has been recognised every year since 2015, by the nationally respected Tech Nation report, for the dominant growth of our tech and software sector – as demonstrated against the rest of the UK. We are at a very exciting time where new tech businesses are choosing BCP as the area to become established. This is building a strong technical (and tech associated) skills base, which is ably supported by the stream of graduates coming from our two universities.

This puts us in a strong position to maximise the opportunities offered by C21st technology. But the skills base can only push as far as the technology allows it to. The introduction of 5G would provide a new platform that would enable the sector to offer all other industries a new capability to push themselves further – by using the very latest technology to introduce revolutionary innovations.

For instance, 5G could enable increased effectiveness in the maintenance of machines in advanced manufacturing. Maintenance teams could wear headsets to see content-rich information displayed ‘virtually’ over equipment using Augmented Reality allowing them to work hands-free. Alternatively, in tourism, 5G could deliver more immersive visitor experiences. For example, visitors could discover the rich cultural history of the local area via location-triggered augmented reality applications.

What will these look like? The honest answer is we can’t be sure until we have the technology to trial. At the advent of broadband, few predicted the domination of social media (such as Facebook and Instagram), or the internet-supported automation of just-in-time manufacturing. Of course, we can’t ignore the many innovation failures of the past 20 years either, but the only way to know what success looks like is to experiment.

We are at a similar position with 5G. Having the technology in place, allows industry to push forward with ideas which are currently only hunches. More importantly, until the technology is in place, most businesses won’t commit the time or money to explore them in depth. The introduction of 5G can provide the catalyst to start this exploration. We are ready to support this as well.

Network organisations such as Silicon South, The Dorset Engineering and Manufacturing Cluster, the Dorset Cyber Alliance etc. are keen to introduce activities which bring our sectors together to enable new business models to be investigated and new innovation to be initiated – by pooling the knowledge of business demand with technical capability.

We realise that this won’t be unique to Bournemouth. 5G trials in London, Bristol, Manchester etc, have already taken the plunge. But, introducing 5G now enables us to keep up with these larger places. We might not become absolute leaders, but without the introduction of 5G, BCP will quickly fall behind. The opportunity to support our nationally recognised growing tech sector would be lost – with the consequential danger that future businesses would choose to set up in more connected locations. This results in lower job creation and reduced competitiveness.

The tech, digital and creative sector in BCP is very well placed to exploit 5G. Innovation invariably emanates from small teams and startups – which is a close reflection of the sector’s demographics locally. The introduction of 5G would prompt this sector to work more closely with other priority sectors and introduce a new wave of innovation across BCP, and beyond. This delivers competitive benefits to our sector and makes improvements to economic performance across all other sectors.

You can have your say on 5G in BCP here:

  • Accelerating Dorset's digital economy
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  • Accelerating Dorset's digital economy

  • Silicon South is an ambitious not-for-profit organisation dedicated to accelerating the digital economy in Dorset – one of the fastest growing creative and digital hubs in Europe.

  • We deliver projects, manage investment, nurture new talent, and encourage cross-industry collaboration to make Dorset the best place for digital and creative organisations to thrive.