The UK’s 4G sucks, and the government must act to make 5G better

By James Rogerson 14 December 2016

5G city scape

Shucks, Lets get 5G Right!

Think the UK has strong 4G coverage? Think again. According to a new report issued by the National Infrastructure Commission the UK is 54th in the world for 4G, with the typical user only able to access it 53% of the time. That’s something that can’t be repeated for 5G, especially if the government wants the UK to be a world leader in it, as claimed. But for that to happen, action must be taken now.

Lord Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru. Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible.”

And while the stats that led to these conclusions aren’t perfect (they’re based on geographic coverage, rather than coverage of homes and businesses), it’s clear that a lot of work needs to be done.

So how can we avoid a similar fate for the inevitable 5G networks? According to the report there need to be several key areas of focus.

First, the government and Ofcom need to come up with a meaningful set of metrics, that represent the coverage people actually receive, and use these metrics going forward.

To ensure the UK is 5G ready there needs to be particular attention put on rail routes, with a new trackside network. The report suggests the government has a plan for this by 2017, and the infrastructure in place on key routes by 2025.

Similarly, motorways need vastly improved coverage, and a mobile network covering them should also be in place by 2025.

But even towns and cities will need a lot of attention, and local authorities will need to work with network providers to deploy the tens of thousands of small cells that will likely be required for 5G coverage.

Whether the government will take the report seriously remains to be seen, and we’ll find out at the 2017 budget, but it’s shown an interest in developing 5G, such as committing £1 billion to 5G trials, so that bodes well.

About James Rogerson

Sub-Editor at

James is sub-editor at both and TechRadar. Also works as a researcher/ technical writer for and several other websites including TechRadar, T3, Smart TV Radar, with work on the web, in print and on TV.

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