Smart street lamps that can house electric vehicle (EV) charging hubs and boost wireless coverage including 5G are to undergo testing in six areas across the UK.
The £4m pilot study will receive £1.3m in central government funding alongside extra money from local authorities including Cambridgeshire, Tees Valley, Kingston upon Thames, Westminster, Oxfordshire and North Ayrshire.
In addition to connectivity and EV charging, the lampposts can be equipped with technology to monitor air quality and display public information.
The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) said that by trialling different uses across the participating areas, the pilot will be able to demonstrate how the technology could become an integral part of UK infrastructure in the future.
The system could be particularly useful for expanding 5G networks, as far more cell towers are needed to provide full coverage than previous generation networks. The central government funding has been provided through the Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP), which is part of DSIT’s efforts to boost 5G adoption across the country.
Digital infrastructure minister Sir John Whittingdale said: “The way we stay in touch, access information and do business is underpinned by digital connectivity – and a world-class wireless infrastructure will be the foundation for the jobs, skills and services of the future.
“We want to ensure that towns and cities across the UK are right at the forefront of this connectivity revolution and ready to seize the opportunities it will bring for local communities, which is exactly what these pilots are about.”
The pilot programmes will begin next month and will run until 31 March 2025.
Julian David, CEO of TechUK, a trade body for UK tech firms, welcomed the announcement but said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome step from the UK government in putting wireless connectivity at the heart of local infrastructure deployment. We must empower more local authorities so that they can foster the greater use of advanced connectivity in their areas, helping unlock growth and innovation across the whole of the UK.
“As TechUK set out in our recent Tech Plan, we must give consumers the confidence to switch to EVs to help overcome ‘range anxiety’, one of the major factors preventing greater uptake.”
In 2019, it emerged that while UK councils were keen to install LED streetlights in a bid to cut carbon emissions and energy bills, the high cost of initial installation was putting them off.
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