Got an idea on how to use 5G for something useful? ESA and the UK Space Agency want to hear from you.
A Call For Proposals has been issued by the space agencies and the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) aimed at coming up with ways of using 5G terrestrial and space technology in support of the UK's logistics businesses, "from rail to ports, from DPD to Amazon."
Poor old Amazon, after all, needs all the support it can get. With profits on the climb and bonzer revenues the poor dear could probably use some assistance in transporting its tax payments to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Or maybe not.
The Call for Proposals follows the signing of a Memorandum of Intent last December by ESA and the DCMS, aimed at supporting commercially viable services enabled by converging both 5G terrestrial and space networks.
5G has been quite a while coming, at least as far as the UK is concerned, and is currently suffering a little at the hands of conspiracy theorists, convinced that rather than slinging low latency, high speed data around the country, the tech has more nefarious uses.
Goodness knows what they'll make of communication satellites flinging connectivity from above the clouds. Both SpaceX and OneWeb (in which the UK government has plans to invest a cool half billion) plan constellations which will enable greater 5G coverage.
Terrestrial options in the UK are a tad limited at the moment too, consisting either of 5G technology piggybacking on the existing 4G infrastructure or, as unveiled by Vodafone earlier this month, via a standalone network. Sadly, the latter will only be helpful for logistics around Coventry for the time being.
Thus convergence between satellite and terrestrial networks is needed in order to get the blanket coverage required by logistics services.
Catherine Mealing-Jones, director of growth at the UK Space Agency, highlighted the importance of the logistics industry in light of the current pandemic, adding that "access to constant connectivity regardless of location offers huge benefits."
While the UK's space industry may have suffered a bit of a beating of late at the hands of EU-funded ESA programmes, such as Copernicus, Blighty remains a big noise within ESA itself.
The European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications is located in Harwell, Oxfordshire and ESA trumpeted a new "space tech incubation unit" for the £100m Space Park Leicester, due to open in 2021. ®