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Confusion and uncertainty over the value of 5G mobile networks, an unclearly defined national strategy, and a lack of awareness of 5G priorities at local government level all pose a risk to national network roll-out if not addressed in the short-term, according to a Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) report researched and authored by Analysys Mason.
The report, Lowering barriers to 5G deployment, raised a number of concerns over barriers to 5G roll-out based on interviews with multiple stakeholders.
It discovered that local authorities are finding it challenging to develop approaches to promote 5G without a clearer understanding of national priorities and benefits, use cases, deployment models and so on. This risks creating a fragmented approach to network deployment, which in turn risks creating investment uncertainty among operators.
Interviewees also said that while the government’s 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme was doing sterling work to develop the UK’s 5G industry, it was creating such a diverse range of use cases across so many different projects that there was only a limited effort to build consensus around key use cases.
According to some stakeholders, this meant it was challenging to identify what use cases would be key to supporting the most viable and widest possible deployment of 5G.
When compounded with other challenges facing the 5G roll-out – such as legal barriers, access to potential sites or availability of fibre backhaul – there is now a real risk that despite widespread ambition to have 5G commercially available in 2020, operators will find there are significant obstacles to investment.
“The next 12 to 18 months are vitally important for the mobile industry to prepare for 5G deployment. Easing barriers to deploying that result in lengthy delays in site planning, or increase costs of deployment to unrealistic levels, should be a key priority for government, local authorities and the industry,” said Analysys Mason partner and project director, Matt Yardley.
Based on the input received, the report made a number of recommendations, such as implementing clearer communications and promotional strategies, and developing a coherent approach within central government. It also included more practical steps, such as streamlining access to public sector assets, sites and land, considering enabling access to power and utility company assets, and doing more to dovetail 5G roll-out into the ongoing roll-out of full-fibre broadband networks.
“The government is rightly ambitious in wanting to ensure that the UK can benefit from being a global leader in the use of 5G. The difficulty lies in how to efficiently deploy the infrastructure that 5G requires, and we believe this report provides a roadmap for how we can do so – removing unnecessary barriers and helping to deliver more investment and ultimately better coverage and capacity for users,” said BSG chair Richard Hooper.