BT gets into 5G SA testbed with Nokia

5G private network use cases are on show as part of the UK government's 5G Test Beds and Trials funding program.

Ken Wieland, contributing editor

March 18, 2022

3 Min Read
BT gets into 5G SA testbed with Nokia

As part of ongoing efforts to showcase how 5G private networks might benefit enterprise customers, BT is participating in a UK publicly funded 5G Standalone (SA) testbed project with Nokia.

Officially unveiled this week, the project involves installation of the Finnish supplier's 5G SA equipment at Coventry's Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC). It's part of the West Midlands 5G (WM5G) initiative, which is supported by the UK government's 5G Test Beds and Trials funding program. nexGworx, borne out of the Worcestershire 5G Testbed and Trials project, is also part of the trial.

The aim of the project is to "explore private 5G and on-premises multi-edge computing to drive forward innovation in the region beyond the duration of the program," according to the group's announcement.

Businesses and universities, along with "wider industry," are given the chance to use MTC facilities to test the technology. This includes the center's recently launched "5G-enabled demonstrator system," which provides features such as 5G-connected robotics, computer vision and edge computing.

One use case under review is an "automated inspection process" to prove how intelligent automation and advanced connectivity could enable manufacturing sites to maximize productivity and utilization of inspection technology (while also reducing footprint and product waste).

MTC points out that traditional in-person inspections can be time consuming and prone to human error. Neither are they automatically recorded.

Onus on CSPs to show value of private 5G?

BT Enterprise CEO Rob Shuter puts it bluntly. "Customers are saying, 'Come up with something that helps me'," he told Light Reading at Mobile World Congress.


Another reason why enterprise 5G use cases have yet to see real traction is because macro coverage of the next-gen tech is still only around 40% of the population, according to Shuter.

"It's why 5G conversations in the enterprise space are more around deploying a private network over a manufacturing facility, a harbor, a military base etc," he said. "I'd say we're in the early stages of that. The technology is still maturing and customer needs are sort of emerging in a co-creation phase. I think we'll be in that phase for most of this year, and it'll probably be industrial scaling in '23, '24 and '25."

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Although Shuter no doubt sees involvement in showcase projects such as WM5G as beneficial during what he calls the co-creation phase, he places great importance on BT's new Division X, which is spearheading the company's efforts to sell new solutions to enterprises.

Marc Overton, former Sierra Wireless SVP, was recently appointed Division X managing director.

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— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Ken Wieland

contributing editor

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 15 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a freelance telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

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