Universities and Science Minister David Willetts has suggested that the UK could regain its lead in mobile telephony with the development of new 5G technologies.

Speaking to journalists at the G8 Innovation Conference in London, Willets said that the government sees “fantastic opportunities” to invest in 5G capabilities that will make the Internet of Things a reality.

“We were world leaders in second generation mobile telephony, and we did great stuff in the 1980s and we set standards in mobile telephony. We went off the pace for 3G and 4G, and we are very keen to be once more world leaders in 5G,” he said.

Last year, the government awarded the University of Surrey a £35 million grant to set up a research hub for 5G technologies.

The Innovation Centre will aim to stimulate expansion in UK telecommunications and provision of broadband mobile internet services, and attract international telecoms giants to conduct research and development on new 5G standards in the UK.

It will also link to the government’s Connected Digital Economy initiative, bringing “significant downstream benefits for economic growth,” according to the University. 

The grant was made up of £11.6 million of government money, underpinned by an additional £24 million from a consortium of mobile operators and infrastructure providers including Huawei, Samsung, Telefonica Europe, Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Rohde-Schwarz and AIRCOM International.

Meanwhile, the EU has announced plans to invest €50 million (£43m) in research in 2013 to develop the architecture and functionality needs for 5G. The money will be spread between a number of projects, with the METIS project alone receiving €16 million.

The global telecommunications industry, valued at $2.1 trillion per annum, is already responsible for 6% of world GDP, and mobile communications data traffic is expected to increase 1,000 fold by 2020.