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New guidance has been launched by London mayor Sadiq Khan to make access to rooftops and other sites easier for mobile providers, with the aim of installing more equipment to fill areas of low mobile coverage, referred to as “not spots”.
The new standard agreement gives clarity on guidelines for commercial landlords and public property owners where before a lack of consistent advice and approaches made it difficult to effectively roll out the technology needed.
The aim is to address areas where there is currently low 4G coverage, and prepare for the future roll-out of 5G, which will also require access to property.
Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, said: “Today, good mobile coverage is an expectation for all those who live, work in or visit London. This guidance is part of the Mayor’s commitment to enhance mobile and fixed connectivity in the capital. It helps end uncertainty which has stopped or slowed infrastructure being put in place across London with a new, consistent approach.”
Previous 5G trials by EE have found developing a dedicated 5G network will be more difficult than it was to develop its 4G predecessor, in many cases because 3G antennae was repurposed to fit the use of a 4G network, whereas 5G will require brand new equipment.
But the development of mobile networks is becoming increasingly important as, according to data from Ofcom, Londoners use a fifth of all mobile data in the UK, with data usage rising every year – the UK Digital Strategy predicts mobile data traffic across the UK is set to increase at a rate of between 25% – 42% every year.
The new standard agreement launched by the Mayor, developed with the help of the British Standards Institution and a steering committee of representatives from the legal, land owner and telecoms sectors, has been launched as part of his commitment to use public sector property to increase mobile connectivity.
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It is also part of the Connected London Programme, which aims to use investment, data and partnerships with local authorities to develop mobile and fixed fibre connectivity across the capital.
Catherine Haslam, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Telecoms Forum Board said: “Standardised access agreements are an essential step towards easing issues and delay in the telecommunications infrastructure development process, and removing mobile ‘not spots’ will crucially provide high speed services to owners, occupiers and the public. The imminent arrival of 5G technologies makes this initiative even more timely.”
While CEO of London First, Jasmine Whitbread, said the guidance will “simplify the process and speed things up for all involved” when it comes to delivering digital connectivity across London, the business group launched a report on connectivity stating steps need to be taken now to ensure 5G connectivity will be available in the near future.
The London First report argues the roll-out of full fibre broadband in the UK is lagging behind that of other countries, and the roll-out of appropriate equipment for connectivity has been hindered by a lack of co-ordination between different local boroughs, and differing approaches to issuing rules and permits for work.
Despite some challenges, projects are already underway to increase the amount of mobile and internet coverage across London as well as join up public assets and increase collaboration to delivery between connectivity across the capital.
An example of this is the plan to introduce 4G mobile service on the London Underground tube network, the cables and technology for which will act as a “fibre hub” to offer connectivity to homes and businesses as well.
There has also been a trial of wholesale small cell 5G infrastructure in London, which uses pizza box-sized wireless network base stations on street furniture, such as poles and lampposts, to boost 5G network coverage.