England’s Connected Heartland

England’s Connected Heartland (ECH) is a 5G Innovation Region (5G IR) encompassing Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Central Bedfordshire, and Cambridgeshire. ECH is coordinated by Oxfordshire County Council, and our aim is to encourage the take-up of 5G connectivity, especially 5G Mobile Private Networks (MPNs), by creating new business models that can be repeated.

How we will drive the adoption of 5G connectivity

As part of ECH, we will focus on some specific projects which will be our ‘use cases’ and create sustainable business models for them (models that include methods of generating revenue so that once the network is set up, there is a way of making money to sustain the highest standard of support from network operators needed to manage the networks.) We are committed to ensuring that any initial investment in setting up a secure, quality 5G network can be properly maintained and continue to provide value to network users going into the future. Options such as monthly paid-for SIM cards for businesses are on the table as we explore ways to financially sustain the 5G networks over the long term.

By creating these commercial models and successfully implementing them in our first projects, we hope that the success stories will attract more investment, and more investment means we can repeat our business models. In other words, our projects being successfully delivered will hopefully mean that more businesses will see the benefits and want to invest in 5G connectivity.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Main Goals for This Project

The ECH region has vast potential for both 5G and IoT, with Education, Research, Manufacturing, and Technology sectors, as well as rural areas and Agriculture. It is also a good location for Transportation and Logistics, with projects like East West Rail underway.

The ECH project will primarily focus on two sectors:

Transport through the East West Rail project between Bicester and Bletchley.

East West Rail (EW Rail) is a new company established by the Department for Transport. EW Rail is responsible for ensuring delivery of a new rail service between Oxford and Cambridge and also have specific oversight of the new track being built between Bicester and Bletchley.

This location has multiple uses for wireless connections. Primarily we aim to find a way of ensuring much better connectivity for passengers using the new service.  The perennial barrier for this is finding a commercial model whereby the significant investment in trackside connectivity needed also has other use-cases to collect revenue for recovery of that investment. The ECH rail project will therefore have 5G radios pointing away from the railway as well as towards it.  We expect there to be demand from farms (for agri-tech applications), residential and business wireless broadband, and other revenue streams.

The ECH programme is managing the procurement of a managed 5G MPN for parts of the route where there is poor existing public coverage and will also be responsible for working with the Train Operating Company (TOC), EW Rail, and multiple stakeholders to secure adoption of the new connectivity and building a repeatable commercial model.

Advanced Manufacturing and Research at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a superb place for research and development. There are over 200 businesses on site at the Harwell campus in four research clusters: Energy Tech, Space, Health Tech, and Quantum Computing. World-leading organisations like The European Space Agency, the Rosalind Franklin Institute and the Faraday Institution work alongside ambitious start-ups, growing businesses and universities active on campus at any one time.

As part of ECH, we plan to procure and commission the build of a 5G Mobile Private Network (MPN) that covers most of the Harwell campus. We intend to create a repeatable business model whereby initial funding from DSIT helps start the project, and the revenue it generates in the future goes into a fund to support more 5G networks in places like Westcott, Cambridge Science Park, and Reading.

Project Significance: How 5G Supports Sustainable Economic Growth

Innovation and advanced technologies rely on a world-class digital infrastructure. 5G, with faster and more reliable internet access, supports productivity across various industries on various devices. This increased productivity can lead to additional GDP growth and the creation of new jobs. Better connectivity also brings environmental benefits, such as reduced energy and natural resource consumption due to less travel and increased remote working. Clean growth means growing the national income while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, Internet of Things (IoT) and automation integration enhance manufacturing processes, enable smart cities, and support the development of emerging technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

The establishment of 5G Innovation Regions is a crucial part of DSIT’s commitment to leading the government’s efforts in advancing telecommunications innovation. DSIT’s mission is to deliver stronger growth, better jobs, and bold discoveries through innovation and investment in advanced technologies. The UK’s telecoms networks serve as the backbone of our economy, influencing how we conduct business, access public services, enjoy entertainment, and maintain connectivity.


Looking Ahead

As it has advanced, wireless communications technology has grown in importance over time, with people depending on reliable, high-speed internet connections for communications in their everyday lives. The implications of 5G range much farther than people may have originally thought, and so driving the adoption of 5G will allow for novel discoveries and solutions across all industries.

5G has the potential to significantly impact the global economy, and the council is delighted to be part of the 5G IR project and to explore the possibilities that come from better connectivity. The council is committed to fostering innovation and encouraging sustainable economic growth, and with the support of our knowledgeable partners on this project, we look forward to uncovering the positive impact this technology can have for businesses and communities.


Skip to content