Work has begun to create the world's first research centre for 5G mobile networks at the University of Surrey in Guildford, following £35 million of investment from the BBC, Huawei, Samsung and Vodafone.

Mobile network antenna

First announced in October last year, planning permission for the research centre has been granted and preparatory work to build the facility is underway, as the UK looks to lead the way when it comes to 5G development.

The facility, which will be home to 150 researchers and 100 PhD students, will include a 5G 'test bed' to act as a real-world environment for the networks to be tested in.

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, head of the university's Centre for Communication Systems Research, said: "We have had an extremely busy year since the initial funding announcement last October, and we are delighted that the formal agreements are now in place and plans are under way to start turning the vision for a 5G Innovation Centre into a reality."

Although 4G networks have only existed in the UK for one year, Tafazolli claims it is important to be always looking ahead and anticipate what the next generation of mobile technology will be like.

Tafazolli added: "The world desperately needs advanced technologies to connect the next generation of mobile users to the internet and to efficiently support billions of devices such as sensors and actuators which are important components of the Internet of Things."

As more devices get online and smartphone adoption continues to rise, the media and telecom regulator Ofcom warned earlier this year that internet use will increase by between 80 and 300 times by 2018, leading to a 'capacity crunch'. It claimed the re-farming of dormant television frequencies as next-generation mobile networks will help to prevent this.


A consortium of investors who have donated more than £30m to the research centre include the BBC, British Telecom, EE, Fujitsu, Huawei, Ofcom, Samsung, Telefonica and Vodafone.

This money will be added to £11.6m awarded by the Higher Education Funding Council of England under the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund late last year.

Having lagged behind countries like the US and South Korea in the development and roll-out of 4G networks, the Guildford research centre will ensure the UK leads the way in the development and deployment of 5G, with the goal of providing 'infinite capacity'.

Tafozilla said: "I believe we can develop the technologies that are required to provide much-needed capacity, drive economic growth and actively contribute to and shape the future 5G system.

"Ultimately, our vision is to provide a consistent and reliable mobile communications service and create the perception of 'infinite capacity' and, with our partners working alongside us, the university is looking forward to making this vision a reality."