Tech consortium claims London boroughs lack 5G readiness

London’s local authorities lack strategy or budget to make next-gen networks a reality, according to Tech London Advocates

Freedom of Information (FoI) data obtained by Tech London Advocates, a consortium including leading IT firms, is claiming that the capital’s local authorities do not have the strategy or budget to make next-generation networks a reality.

The consortium asserts that despite mobile network operators (MNOs) claiming 5G networks are now available in major UK cities, local authorities in charge of London’s network infrastructure are far from ready to support the roll-out.

Specifically, it claims that as many as 31 out of the 33 London boroughs have no specific strategy for enabling the roll-out of 5G networks.

The study added that in terms of personnel, 30 boroughs stated that they have no staff responsible for implementing 5G. Six boroughs were said to have had a councillor specifically responsible for 5G or broadband, despite, the consortium noted, having no broader strategy for enabling a roll-out.

Even though the consortium conceded that deploying 5G technology was actually the responsibility of MNOs, it said that its study showed that not one of the London boroughs could confirm an anticipated date for full coverage in their respective territories.

This, it said, highlighted a lack of collaboration between stakeholders. As an example, it said that the City of London had predicted that it will be at least three years before it has full 5G coverage, a concerning thought when major cities around the world are adopting the technology at pace.

The study showed that 13 boroughs had concessions contracts in place to give communications infrastructure providers access to public street furniture. Out of the 11 boroughs that confirmed they are actively encouraging local roll out, four cited such concessions contracts as a method for doing so.

It also accepted that the capital’s multi-borough system posed a unique set of challenges to network operators working towards a cohesive roll-out compared with other cities.

Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw said: “Network operators have been advertising 5G-enabled handsets for some time. However, as these results show, London is far from ready for widespread connectivity.

“It requires co-ordination of different budgets, timelines and deals between a complex blend of stakeholders, including the challenge for MNOs of working across 35 planning authorities and 34 highways authorities.”

Talking to Computer Weekly on the findings of the research, a spokesperson from operator EE, which offers 5G services in London, admitted than things could improve but stressed the work that the company was doing in ramping up coverage. The spokesperson said: “We’re committed to continuing to roll out 5G across London, and recent independent testing from RootMetrics so we have already made 5G available across more than 60% of the capital. We were the first to launch 5G in the UK, and we’re continuing to upgrade sites every day, working closely with local councils and landlords. The process for the roll out of new mobile technology can always be improved to help remove barriers, and that’s important in ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of digital communications.”

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