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Brighton’s 5G experiment enters new test phase with focus on virtual reality

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Digital leaders from across Sussex and the south have been testing the UK’s latest 5G mobile network testbed at Brighton innovation hub Fusebox, where the latest phase of a research and development (R&D) project run by Digital Catapult, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Wired Sussex and the University of Brighton has just got underway.

The Brighton testbed was first switched on in April 2018, backed by £1.2m of funding from Coast to Capital and £270,000 from Digital Catapult, and is enabling local SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups to test and explore the potential applications of 5G through an immersive technology showcase including augmented, mixed and virtual reality, and develop new ideas.

Among the first businesses testing out the enhanced network is Mnemoscene, a local startup that is combining the “artistic, technical and educational expertise” of its co-founders to build engagement with cultural heritage using immersive technology.

“Mnemoscene is excited to be given the opportunity to develop the use case for 5G at the testbed. There are many dynamic startups like ours in Brighton and this testbed gives us a real opportunity to innovate using this potentially groundbreaking and disruptive technology,” said co-founder Sophie Dixon.

Mnemoscene has developed a holographic museum exhibit using the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) that, when combined with a smartphone app, enables users to add items such as paintings and sculptures to a personal, web-accessible collection for future viewing.

Shoreham-based engineering and environment consultancy Ricardo – which has just completed a major project with train operator Northern Rail to refurbish its fleet of Class 158 Sprinter trains with enhanced digital systems, including an on-board Ethernet-based network to support staff communications and other services – was also on scene to explore some of the applications of 5G.  

“Innovation and technology are at the heart of Ricardo’s business, so we are excited by the arrival of 5G technology in the Greater Brighton area,” said the firm’s group IT director, Simon Campbell.

“We look forward to engaging with the 5G testbed and continuing our collaboration with the innovative companies that Fusebox attracts and supports.” 

The testbed was constructed and developed with assistance from both the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre, and the University of Bristol both of which have established world-leading network research capabilities in the past few years.

“The 5G Brighton testbed lets companies experiment with new applications and services which take advantage of the unique nature of 5G,” said Digital Catapult CEO Jeremy Silver.

“This is a major step forward in the wider roll-out of this advanced technology, helping take the technology out of university labs and into the market. 5G represents more than just faster internet on the move, it’s the first mobile technology that, by design, enables free standing setup in individual locations, offers new companies the opportunity to control their own networks, and enables operators to manage computing at the edge as a new business model for the future.”

“From virtual to mixed reality, this new 5G testbed will provide the opportunity for bright ideas to flourish, demonstrating the potential of creative and digital sectors in Brighton, and showcasing our modern Industrial Strategy in action,” added science minister Sam Gyimah.

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