The government has unveiled its first Budget of 2017, with chancellor Philip Hammond stumping up funding for research into robotics, 5G and driverless cars.
Most notable was a £15m announcement for 5G research, £270m for research into biotech, robotic systems and driverless vehicles and £200m for local projects to fund full-fibre broadband networks.
However, despite the positive spin some have criticised Hammond already for lacking any new thinking, with the Budget announced by his predecessor George Osborne in March 2016 looking very similar, also bringing funding for 5G and driverless carsThe funding for 5G split opinion, with some saying more needs to be done to ensure security is put at the heart of research into this emerging technology.
"The Budget today discussed the government's plan to put the UK firmly on the 5G map, claiming the super-fast mobile network will go as far as to revolutionise the healthcare industry," said Raj Samani, CTO at Intel Security.
"Exciting as this may be, I'm also extremely concerned. Yes, 5G means we'll see faster and greater levels of data transferred across networks, but with this comes a great security risk - one that could be detrimental to the healthcare industry," he added.
Samani continued: "If security is not addressed by the time 5G becomes a reality, we will become even more vulnerable. We could see cyber criminals accessing our health data at an even faster, uncontrollable rate. When linked up to healthcare systems, insecure health monitors can open the door to personal data that will never change, or "non-perishable" data, such as family names, address history and even your mother's maiden name.."
But Dan Adams, lead UK partner for telecommunications at Deloitte, welcomed the funding as key to ensure the UK can benefit from a 5G future: "The commitment to invest £16m in a 5G hub will be welcome news for the telecommunications industry and will help provide the building blocks for the UK to be 5G ready," he said.
"In the near-term 5G will support narrow-band IOT, a technology that can communicate with buried monitors for up to 10 years. This enables utilities to monitor flow in pipes, reducing the chance of burst water mains, potentially saving the economy millions per year in delays and repairs. 5G will also support fixed wireless access, providing a broadband connection to the house over the air.
"This will allow us to push out 100mbps broadband to those not served by current technology, and create a more competitive environment. It may even allow us to get rid of overhead phone wires."
Stuart Orr, advisory partner at EY, was also upbeat on the potential for 5G and welcomed the investment.
"The investment in 5G mobile technology is an important step to ushering in speeds that are up to 12 times faster than 4G, with the key benefit being the reduction of latency times or lag on the network," he said.
"If driverless vehicles are to become ubiquitous they require high speed networks coupled with very low latency to allow key decisions and actions to be rapidly taken, so this news will be cheered by investors in that technology.
"It is also important to remember that for 5G to be a real success key players from across the industry will need to collaborate closely together."
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