Local authorities have been invited to express their interest in obtaining funding to develop their areas into a testbed for 5G technology.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said population centres of around 500,000 are likely to be favoured, but that "interest from large cities below 500,000 population but with very strong, clear digital leadership and vision will be considered". It is open to two or more local authorities to partner with one another and submit a joint expression of interest, according to DCMS.
UK digital minister Margot James said: "This is a huge opportunity for an urban area to become the flagship of our ambitious programme to make Britain fit for the future and a world leader in 5G. Trialling 5G at scale across an entire city is a chance to prove the economic benefits predicted from this new technology, test different methods of deployment and boost the connectivity of ordinary people working and living there."
The selected "citywide testbed" is likely to see trials of 5G connectivity in a variety of contexts and across a number of different sectors, including in public services, industry, transport, health care, media and entertainment, DCMS said.
The plans are part of the UK government's existing 5G testbeds and trials programme and broader industrial strategy.
The closing date for expressions of interest to be submitted for the urban connected communities project is 5 June. DCMS said that it expects to select its public sector partner "by early July".
"We will work with the selected public sector partner/s to develop the project in more detail, including developing the approach to selecting private sector organisations to participate in the project," DCMS said. "This will take place by late 2018 / early 2019. Project delivery will start from late 2018 / early 2019."
"Funding from the 5G testbeds and trials programme is currently envisaged to be available up to the end of March 2021, although we will expect the project to have a longer duration than this and to move over time into sustainable delivery," it said.