Funding competition 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme: Phase 1

This DCMS competition encourages the development of a UK ‘5G ecosystem’ with technology and deployment, testbeds and trials to stimulate the development of 5G use cases and business models.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is to invest up to £25 million in innovative 5G testbeds and trials as part of the government's overall £740 million of funding from the National Productivity Investment Fund for next generation digital infrastructure. Innovate UK are delivering this competition.

This competition will support the development of a ‘5G ecosystem’ in the UK and contribute towards the delivery of the objectives in the UK’s 5G strategy. The aim is to encourage technology and deployment, testbeds and trials to stimulate the development of 5G use cases and business models.

Projects across the programme will run from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.

This first funding competition is for Phase 1 of initial projects across the UK that will run from April 2018 until March 2019. Details of future funding opportunities for additional testbeds and trials will be available as the programme progresses.

Funding type


Project size

Your project can apply for grant funding between £2 million and £5 million.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK registered organisation
  • carry out your project in the UK
  • work in collaboration with others

Your project must deliver the whole grant funded element of the project by 31 March 2019. This includes the setup of a testbed and completion of any trials that are grant funded from this competition.

By exception, we will consider a larger scale project with an extended delivery period, but you should contact us in advance before submission. You will be required to complete substantive delivery elements within 2018/19.

The competition is open to organisations of all types who collaborate together in a consortium to bid for grant funding.

The consortium should be industry led or have a strong industry component.

Non-grant partners

Partners based outside of the UK are welcome to participate but will not receive grant funding from the programme unless activities are undertaken through a UK registered company. There must be a collaboration of at least 2 grant-receiving organisations eligible for grant.

Projects that we won’t fund

The competition is for proposals that address both testbeds and trials. We will not fund proposals that focus only on trials or only on testbeds.

Funding and project details

Grants are to be awarded before 31 March 2018. You should be at an advanced stage of readiness before you apply for this competition.

Projects should target testbeds and trials that have a short build cycle. We expect grant funded trials to be completed within a year as funding ends on 31 March 2019.

A consortium can consist of any size and type of partner. Each consortium should have the skills and experience to build testbeds and undertake high value trials. These will demonstrate potential innovative uses of 5G services.

If the proposed testbed facilities are suitable for continued use, they should be made available for other organisations to undertake trials. Proposals should also consider approaches allowing future use of the facilities beyond the grant funding period.

The total subcontracting cost is limited to a maximum of 30% of total project costs.

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 60% if you are a small business

  • up to 50% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 40% if you are a large business

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

To discover what cost are eligible please see the standard definition of Eligible Costs.

Project types

Projects should focus on providing testbed facilities and undertaking trials.

The work involved should be pre-commercial experimental development, that is to say that trials will be primarily at Technology Readiness Levels 5 to 8. For definitions of these please see the guidance on Technology Readiness Levels.

Competition scope

We are looking for projects which help support the development of the UK’s “5G ecosystem” by addressing at least one of the following:

  • explore the potential for 5G to deliver benefits for businesses
  • develop new 5G applications and services
  • develop and explore new business models around key 5G technologies
  • reduce the commercial risks associated with investment in 5G

Your proposal must:

  1. Contribute to the creation of innovative testbeds and trials in the UK.
  2. Demonstrate a good understanding of relevant industry sector requirements.
  3. Provide a high-level project plan for the setup of a testbed including any deployment and trial activities planned.
  4. Contribute to best practices and the development of a 5G ecosystem. This includes test networks and other testbeds and trials that maximise the use of the DCMS investment.
  5. Demonstrate access to frequency spectrum: the proposal should describe which frequency bands are intended to be used (if any), and how the project will obtain authorisation for their use.
  6. Describe what infrastructure will be used in the project, and how it will be sourced.
  7. Describe what ‘user equipment’ (user terminals, smartphones, mobile devices and so on) will be used (if any) in the trials, and how they will be sourced. If devices are not single commercial products, the proposal must also explain how they would be assembled and integrated for the purpose of the trial.
  8. Finish all grant funded work by 31st March 2019 (other than for a project on an exceptional basis).
  9. Include a testbed involving hardware, including radio interfaces incorporating some aspect of mobility.
  10. Address, through industry sectors, particular challenges that could be met using 5G services.
  11. Have a significant innovation in respect of either the testbed or the services and/or applications.
  12. Develop trials that de-risk something significantly beyond the capability of today’s commercially available mobile networks.

The project may use an existing operational network. It may also use network elements as currently deployed or upgraded, the construction of new network elements or a combination of both.

We encourage consortiums to collaborate with other projects which are also funded by the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, to work on major issues identified by DCMS as priority areas. Consortiums should collaborate and form joint working groups to address these priorities. These activities will be funded by each consortium allocating a minimum of 3% of the project grant.

Description of 5G

For the purposes of this competition, we will assume the following characteristics for 5G:

  • it is largely a wireless system
  • it is mainly terrestrial
  • it will have capabilities significantly beyond today’s commercially available 4G networks
  • it will be designed to support a wide range of applications for industry sectors, in addition to mobile broadband and consumer applications
  • niche applications will be capable of achieving the economies of scale of mass market applications

The usage scenarios for 5G are expected to include one or more of:

  • enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)
  • massive machine-type communications (mMTC)
  • ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC)

As a general guide we are using the following terms:

  1. A 5G testbed is a facility on which trials can take place. Testbeds could range from having a specific focus, for example, a low latency testbed for aspects of virtual reality, to being located across an urban or rural area to support the development of a multi-faceted smart city or rural applications. The testbed can range from being quite confined within a building or factory, to covering a large geographic area. The term testbed could also include services to facilitate the conduct of trials, for example, in order to link trial organisations to test users.
  2. A 5G trial will generally make use of a 5G testbed. A trial is expected to be a blend of technical development and experimenting with business models. Future projects could also focus on deployment challenges.
  3. A 5G test network involves the core network capabilities that are required for trials.

5G radio access technologies

This is a broad interpretation that includes 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) “New Radio” (both below 6GHz and above 24GHz) and pre-standard versions of these. Proposals can address other innovative technologies for mobile access. They could also include elements of new radio access technologies and systems that will be important for 5G (such as massive MIMO, self-optimising networks, mm-waves).

Network architectures

Proposals could include network slicing, software defined networks, network function virtualisation and mobile edge computing. Proposals should show innovation beyond what is already being deployed in current commercial 4G networks.

Services and applications

Proposals should address services and applications for which the solution is particularly applicable to 5G. They should describe the industry sectors for their intended use. We welcome proposals that address multiple use cases in a particular industry sector or use cases with synergies in different sectors (such as in the geographic area for use).

New topologies for radio network deployment

Proposals should address types of radio network deployment that are not commonplace in current 4G networks. Examples include:

  • extensive small cell deployment
  • identifying viable types of deployment for 5G at mm-wave frequencies
  • connectivity to cars and trains
  • coverage in tunnels and underground areas
  • networks with high resilience for utilities and emergency services
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This could include convergence between:

  • mobile and fixed networks
  • mobile and satellite networks
  • mobile and broadcasting

5G Technology

User trials may need to use pre-5G technology, because of limited availability of 5G user equipment (especially consumer terminals). If this is the case, the proposal should describe how the service or application will relate to future commercialisation potential of 5G.
23 October 2017
Competition opens
30 October 2017
Recording of the London briefing event.
31 October 2017
Manchester briefing event.
1 November 2017
Glasgow briefing event.
6 December 2017 12:00pm
Registration closes
13 December 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
9 February 2018
Shortlist applicants notified
8 March 2018
Applicants notified

Before you start

To apply:

  • register online
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • attend one of the briefing events
  • complete and upload your online application on our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

External, independent experts will assess the quality your application. We will then select the projects to fund, building a portfolio of projects that:

  • are high quality
  • address the range of themes as described in the scope
  • represent the potential for return on investment for the company and the UK

Subject to meeting the quality threshold, we reserve the right to manage the portfolio to achieve the correct balance of projects and funding.

Please use Microsoft Word. If you complete your application using Google Docs or any other open source software, this can be incompatible with the application form. This means that usual restrictions on page length and font size are removed. If this happens, your application will not be eligible. If you have difficulties with your application form, please contact us.

Read the general guidance for applicants carefully before you apply. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

Background and further information

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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