5G’s role in supporting the financial post-Covid recovery


Written by Mark Stansfeld, Chair, West Midlands 5G Board

Covid-19 has impacted businesses across all industry sectors, with the West Midlands’ regional economy shrinking by 9% in 2020. The financial recovery to pre-pandemic levels is expected to be slow, especially while lingering market uncertainty remains. 

Although there’s no silver bullet for solving this issue, I firmly believe creating jobs, and advancing new and existing industries will go a long way in supporting financial recovery. We have already seen some of the transformative power of connectivity, and with high speed 5G connectivity the opportunities are greater than ever before.   

The fifth generation of mobile data has moved out of its infancy and established itself as a force capable of drastically improving our everyday lives, enabling ‘real time’ connectivity, and creating opportunities for more sophisticated and productive ways of working. 

5G is far more than mobile connectivity; it will both improve the use of existing technology and has the potential to innovative services and establish new use cases across industries including e-health, transport, and manufacturing. 5G enables the instantaneous transfer of data and information whilst allowing thousands of devices to be simultaneously connected, creating vast transformative potential, to business and the economy.

PwC predicts that the adoption of 5G technology will increase the productivity and efficiency of those businesses, adding an estimated £43 billion to UK GDP by 2030. This figure highlights the potential of 5G to rethink business models, skills, products, and services and will play a significant role in rebuilding the economy following the detrimental impact of Covid-19. 

West Midlands 5G’s (WM5G) mission as the UK’s first region wide 5G testbed has been to work in partnership with the public and private sectors to deliver projects promoting and accelerating the benefits of 5G throughout the region. To date we have supported businesses across industries such as manufacturing, transport, and healthcare to become more agile and competitive within the market, which will ultimately help them reach their potential and support UK job creation and GDP.

PwC anticipates that – once fully adopted – 5G will add £15 million to the healthcare sector by 2030. This will be through the enabling of greater automation, allowing more aspects of medical care or processes to be provided via digital means, both in and outside of the clinical setting. Not only will this decrease footfall in hospitals, but it will also alleviate pressure on the NHS.

Manufacturing is another key industry to gain competitive and financial advantage, being the third largest contributor to the UK economy. WM5G is supporting the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in trialling a purpose-built, stand-alone 5G network aimed at boosting resilience and productivity through innovation.  The project will help prove the suitability and advantages of 5G services for the adoption of industrial digital technology and robotics in production environments, unlocking industry 4.0 and true productivity in manufacturing. 

5G connectivity is also having an impact on the region’s roads. We have been working closely with Transport for West Midlands to deploy the UK’s first fully operational Road Sensor Network. Using 5G, the sensor network relays live traffic information to reduce congestion, identify traffic patterns and plan future developments. This installation improves road safety and reduces travel times, making the region more attractive for investment and consequently helping to build the economy. 

Similar projects to improve accessibility have been undertaken across all modes of transport, including another UK first, a 5G-connected tram which adds value to local authorities, passengers, and businesses. By connecting transport networks, we are able to deliver next generation services, that are more intuitive and responsive to the needs of passengers, making it easier to get around the region.  

It is indisputable that 5G is integral in supporting businesses in their post-Covid financial recovery by increasing efficiencies and therefore their revenue. 

In a post-Covid world it’s essential we take advantage of the surge of technological adoption of remote connected technologies that surged in the early part of the pandemic. The use of 5G aids more productive ways of working, ultimately supporting the UK’s financial recovery, creating meaningful and impactful growth trajectory for the country’s many industries.

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