A NEW lab to experiment with the 'world-changing' potential of 5G mobile signal is to be built in South Oxfordshire.

The UK Space Agency is investing £3 million in building the new centre at Harwell Campus near Didcot.

The facility will allow businesses to tap into the potential of 5G and satellite technology. Eventually 5G will be extended across the entire Harwell Campus which will provide a base for UK researchers and businesses to experiment.

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The aim is to provide a testing facility that can show the benefits of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks. Once the technology is demonstrated, the techniques can be rolled out to other businesses across the UK.

The 5G (fifth generation) mobile network is perceived as world-changing and its considered a meteoric leap in wireless communications, offering much faster data speeds.

It is particularly of interest to space exploration companies, and the new Harwell hub is being backed by a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA), which also has its UK base at the campus.

Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications at ESA, said: "ESA’s novel 5G hub will showcase how space technology enables connectivity, partnering with industry to foster innovation in the realms of autonomous vehicles and smart cities, and to enable machines to exchange information with one another via the internet of things.

"Adding satellites to existing terrestrial 5G infrastructure is essential to ensure a reliable and safe telecommunications network that supports such connectivity, which in turn promotes a seamless and more environmentally friendly experience.

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"Investing in space improves life on Earth."

The 'internet of things' is the name given to the idea that more and more objects in everyday use, including household appliances such as dishwashers or fridges, are getting connected to the internet, so they can be controlled remotely.

The 5G network is also seen has paving the way for vehicles to swap data nearly instantly.

This could potentially aid navigation and, for example, mean a car's on-board computer could begin to apply the brakes before a driver is even aware of an accident.

The Harwell centre is being developed by business and IT consultancy firm CGI, working with BT, Avanti Communications and the University of Surrey.

It is currently due to be finished by 2021.

One other application of the research will be connecting rural communities across the UK to 5G in the most affordable way possible.