The UK’s mobile network operators have launched a report, Councils and Connectivity, in Parliament to highlight the critical role local councils can play in improving mobile connectivity, including 5G.
The report was produced by Mobile UK, the trade association for EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. It sets out how an integrated 4G and 5G infrastructure could deliver benefits worth up to £18.5 billion to the British economy by 2026, but explains how the operators are in an ‘arms race’ to keep up with demand.
In the last half year, the mobile operators extended 4G coverage to an area the size of Wales, but demand continues to soar: in 2018, mobile customers are gobbling up, on average, 1.9GB of data per month, but this is expected to rise to 90GB by 2025.
The heart of the report is three ways local councils can work with the operators with a short case study alongside each to show how the approach has been applied:
- Strong political leadership – Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority is supported by the mayor and has a fully-funded and dedicated delivery team to support plans for full-fibre networks, 5G and improvements to mobile coverage. The intention is to improve network coverage across the county, including A and B roads, aw well as rail services by 2022.
- Connectivity should be inherent in local councils’ long-term planning – Norfolk’s Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee is held up as the exemplar here. It commissioned a survey of 3,400 miles of Norfolk’s roads, 30 railway stations and mainline railways to establish a clear picture of mobile voice and data coverage, then drew up plans to work with operators to get coverage into ‘not-spots’.
- Developing best practice, collaboration and exchange of information and ideas – North Yorkshire County Council has three complementary partnerships in place. The first is with operators, another is to understand the approaches of planning authorities and economic strategists, and a third to explore funding from local enterprise partnerships.
A fourth call to action in the report does not have a case study, but urges local councils to lobby to remove obstacles to installing infrastructure. This is a big problem, as highlighted by Mobile UK’s joint statement, issued on August 22, with Country Land and Business Association, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport which called for the cooperation of all parties to make sites available and affordable.
Useful read: What is 5G?