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Councils urged to support 5G readiness

Local authorities must do more to facilitate the roll-out of next-generation mobile connectivity, study finds

Councils have a key role to play in enabling the roll-out of 5G infrastructure, but are failing to do so, trade association Mobile UK has found.

5G is expected to contribute up to £164bn to GDP by 2030, according to data from the GSM Association (GSMA), but research by Mobile UK found that local authorities were not providing “the certainty needed to assist mobile operators” with the implementation of networks.

Despite industry investment to enhance and improve 4G coverage in readiness for 5G, councils are largely inconsistent in their approach around improvements to mobile connectivity, the report noted.

Fewer than one-third (28%) of councils’ Local Plans examined by the report made detailed reference to mobile connectivity, while 65% of local authorities didn’t have a councillor with specific responsibility for digital issues.

The report stated that nine in 10 councils in the UK (87%) had not audited the suitability of their land, buildings and other infrastructure to host digital infrastructure. In addition, three-quarters (74%) of the councils analysed by Mobile UK had not applied for funding to improve digital connectivity.

Councils must build mobile connectivity into their strategic plans, the study said, adding that local authorities should prioritise mobile and broadband equally.

Another recommendation set out in the report was to establish “connectivity considerations” as best practice in the planning phase of new developments.

“Any development – from upgrades to the road network to new housing estates – should consider connectivity requirements prior to construction beginning, not after construction is complete,” the report stated.

In addition, councils should have digital champions – senior roles dedicated to making better use of mobile and digital technology, such as a chief digital officer or council officer with a specific mobile connectivity remit.

“Digital champions provide a single point of contact and responsibility for mobile connectivity, and will also be in a unique position to align competing interests within a local authority, such as economic development, property, planning and politics,” the report said.

A separate report by Ericsson noted that potential early adopters of 5G expect to pay, on average, a 32% premium for 5G.

Early adopters are more likely to demand enhanced devices for their money and expect 5G to bring them relief from congested 4G networks in urban areas, and the possibility of using 5G as a home broadband alternative, with hotly anticipated use cases such as higher resolution video and augmented and virtual reality applications. 

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