Ministers today confirmed that the West Midlands is to become the UK’s first-ever multi-city testbed for 5G mobile technology – matching a key recommendation from the National Infrastructure Commission to support its nationwide rollout.

Digital Minister Margot James announced plans for an initial £25million towards the pilot, to be matched by the West Midlands Combined Authority. The pilot will support trials across Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, and will see the rollout of “connected ambulances” so paramedics can access expert advice while on the scene, online GP consultations and CCTV on public transport enabled through artificial intelligence technology.

The announcement comes after the publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s Connected Future report in December 2016. The report set out how the UK could become a world leader in 5G technology, which would help to improve the country’s international competitiveness and support a whole new way of communicating and doing business in the future. The need to establish 5G pilot programmes to inform timely and successful nationwide 5G rollout was among the report’s key recommendations.

Responding to today’s announcement a National Infrastructure Commission spokesperson said:

“Mobile connectivity is a necessity wherever we live, work and travel. The rollout of 5G will be crucial in unlocking the UK’s full economic potential and today’s announcement marks a welcome step towards making this a reality.

“As our Connected Future report showed, the lessons learnt from local projects will be vital to inform the timely rollout of 5G nationwide in the future.

“We look forward to seeing the benefits of innovative 5G technologies brought to life across the West Midlands.”