Welsh gov reveals plans for 5G, cyber security testbeds

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The Welsh government has announced a new tech cluster in Ebbw Vale as part of its investment in 5G technology, as well as a new campus for testing cyber security and autonomous vehicles.

Through its 5G Wales Unlocked project, the Welsh government is investing in 5G mobile connectivity to support pilots across education, transport, tourism, and farming in Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire.

This project is being rolled out in association with the UK government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which has already started its 5G Testbeds & Trials programme for rural communities. It hopes to transform rural businesses, public services, and infrastructure across Wales with this new technology.

Cisco, BT, Utterberry, AppyWay, Cardiff University, Monmouthshire CC, and Blaenau Gwent Local Authority have all signed up to help deliver the project.

Peter Shearman, head of innovation labs UKI at Cisco, said: “We believe in building an inclusive future for everyone, and for us, a large part of that comes from the opportunity provided by connectivity for individuals and communities - whether in cities or rural areas.

“5G Wales Unlocked brings together partners and government bodies across the UK to help tackle the digital divide and provide the resources necessary to trial new ways of closing it, including 5G. 5G infrastructure has the potential to help connect business critical services and devices, and the project aims to help build the commercial case for increased investment to make this a reality for rural communities.”

The government has also said it is working on a £7m campus in Blaenau Gwent with French-owned Thales. The campus will be used for testing cyber security, autonomous vehicles and energy infrastructure. It will contain research laboratories, a test track and a model street complex that startups, SMEs, international companies, and governments can use to test and build trust in new technologies.

To support the new campus, the government and local council are working to deliver accommodation to businesses in the area, a project called The Box, which includes developing a new hub of flexible office premises, built from shipping containers. This has been supported by nearly £500,000 from the Welsh Government's Transforming Towns programme.

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Economy & Transport said: “Through Tech Valleys the Welsh Government is committed to creating a new tech-cluster in Ebbw Vale that will attract, support and drive innovative tech businesses.

“The clustering of cutting edge digital infrastructure, modern and attractive accommodation and a leading tech anchor company can act as a magnet for new firms to the area.”

“Our investment in 5G Wales Unlocked combined with new innovative accommodation for business via The Box and an exciting partnership with Thales on cyber testing for autonomous vehicles will help to make Ebbw Vale an obvious home for new tech businesses and will help to drive the innovation, collaboration, and long term economic prosperity that we want to see in the area.”

In January 2019, it was announced that Ebbw Vale would host a £20m cyber security R&D centre belonging to Thales. This was right at the heart of the country’s Tech Valleys project, an initiative started in 2017 by the Welsh government to support job growth with new technologies and advanced manufacturing.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.