WARRINGTON is at the heart of the fastest-growing economy in England, boasts among the highest company start-up rates anywhere and has a burgeoning tech cluster – but fails to make a list of 16 pathfinder cities tasked with launching 5G mobile connectivity this year.
Warrington’s director of economic growth Steve Park says that network operators are missing a huge opportunity as a result.
“We have one of the largest clusters of advanced manufacturing and associated research businesses in the UK and a hugely innovative tech cluster at The Base driving forward the Industry 4.0 agenda,” says Steve, managing director of Warrington & Co, the town’s economic development business.
“It makes no sense to miss out such a dynamic economy, particularly given its growth rates,” he argues. “We plan to discuss with the network operators how they can bring forward their 5G coverage, particularly given that we border two of the main pathfinder cities, Liverpool and Manchester.”
Latest government figures published in January by the Office of National Statistics put Warrington at the heart of a £31bn economy that is growing faster than any other in the UK. “It’s this combination of scale and growth that should make the business case stack up,” added Steve.
He says The Base has installed super-fast broadband networks in to the building offering speeds of 1 gigabyte per second in the meantime. “This is incredibly fast, but 5G is capable of delivering speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second and for our tenants at The Base, whose data crunching requirements can be quite staggering, this is obviously hugely appealing. We want a piece of the action – and sooner rather than later.”
5G networks offer download speeds ten times faster than 4G, with greater reliability. Consumers should, in theory, be able to download an UltraHD movie in about 20 seconds.
But it’s the impact on health services and manufacturing that appeals most to Warrington, says Steve.
“We’ve seen in trials in the Midlands that paramedics can connect directly to specialists on the go with no interruption to service enabling remote input to life-saving treatment, so of course we’re impatient for that.
“5G can be a game-changer for our manufacturers, too. They are adjusting to what is called Industry 4.0, which is the streamlining of manufacturing processes through the application of technology and we have companies here in The Base growing strongly by providing them with the necessary software support. The ability to manage complex automated processes faster and more reliably via 5G would provide a huge boost to Warrington’s productivity and competitiveness.”
The 5G roll-out in Liverpool and Manchester begins later this year and whilst infrastructure investment to support it is well underway by EE, BT and Vodafone no firm dates have been announced yet for its launch. EE is promising to launch a 5G home router as an alternative to fixed broadband and says it will be launching ‘multiple’ 5G smartphones in partnership with manufacturers.
*5G is made up of unique radio frequencies that are broken up in to bands. These frequencies are considerably higher than 4G, so can support greater capacity.