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Birmingham, Dudley councils accelerate 5G roll-out

Local authorities say developing fifth-generation mobile network infrastructure is critical to driving economic recovery in the region post-Covid

Providing further evidence that the West Midlands is driving 5G in UK, Birmingham City Council and Dudley Council have signed what they call landmark lease agreements with Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL) and fellow UK mobile infrastructure services company Cornerstone to accelerate the roll-out of 5G network infrastructure under the guidance of West Midlands 5G (WM5G).

MBNL and Cornerstone are the key infrastructure providers for mobile network operators EE, Vodafone, Telefónica (O2) and Three, which hold 5G licences in the UK. WM5G is backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the West Midlands Combined Authority and in March 2020 delivered the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed and accelerators as part of a consortium led by O2.

WM5G believes that at least 2,000 private sector businesses and public sector organisations in the West Midlands and beyond will benefit from using the 5G accelerators over the next five years. It says they will experience a live 5G network, discover the benefits that 5G can bring to their organisation, and work with innovators to take advantage of 5G through new applications and services.

WM5G says the biggest obstacle facing the deployment of 5G networks across the UK has been the dramatic changes to legal and planning regulations governing the deployment of mobile network infrastructure. Market challenges have arisen from revisions to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) 2017, causing delays to the deployment of mobile networks and hindering the roll-out of 5G.

“Our programme has already helped our region’s towns and cities accelerate their access to 5G,” said Rhys Enfield, head of infrastructure acceleration at WM5G. “Getting the infrastructure in place now means that private and public sector organisations will get to experience 5G’s endless possibilities sooner. In turn, this will help to enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in 5G technology.”

The collaboration between WM5G, MBNL and Cornerstone, as well as some of the region’s local authorities including Birmingham City Council and Dudley Council, is claimed to have paid dividends, with up to 50 lease agreements secured for 5G mobile sites in key locations across the West Midlands, paving the way for more.

The lease agreements are designed to afford security for mobile network operators and provide a framework for the ongoing development of mobile network infrastructure. The partners says that reducing the barriers and time to deploy the required infrastructure – cutting deployment time by six months or more – will only enable the benefits sooner to the citizens, businesses and the public sector across the West Midlands.

5G offers significant benefits to the citizens and businesses in Birmingham,” said Peter Bishop, director for digital and customer services at Birmingham City Council. “It will drive the economic growth of the city, offer new innovative ways of working and new business models that will improve public service and I am really pleased that we have been able to work collaboratively with WM5G, MBNL and Cornerstone to achieve faster deployment of this technology.”

Ian Kettle, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise at Dudley Council, added: “We’re pleased that our streamlined planning processes will help to support the growth of a 5G network in Dudley when it arrives in the borough. We are working hard to make sure this comes to the borough as soon as possible to help bolster our position as a key destination for new businesses for the future.”

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