5G masts may soon be strapped to lampposts and traffic lights

(Image credit: Google)

The UK government hopes a pilot scheme that makes it easier for mobile operators to identify and use publicly owned street furniture that can host networking equipment will accelerate and enhance the country’s 5G infrastructure.     

Eight winning projects covering 44 local council areas will share £4 million in funding from the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator to see how software can simplify local authority processes when operators request access to publicly owned assets.

5G networks will use a greater variety of spectrum and access points than any other previous generation of mobile connectivity, with micro infrastructure such as small cells essential to boosting network density that will ensure the ultrafast speeds, high capacity, and ultra-low latency.

Lamp post 5G

These network characteristics will be essential for some of the most revolutionary 5G applications that will deliver significant value to individuals, businesses, and public services.

Although the rollout of 5G is the responsibility of major operators, local authorities play a critical role in areas such as planning permission and access to council-owned street furniture.

Assets such as street signs, bus shelters, and lamp posts are ideal hosts for network equipment such as antennas that can provide additional connectivity in areas without the need to build masts in areas where there isn’t an appropriate location for a full mast which could also take longer to construct.

The software in question will provide operators with information about which assets are suitable for networking equipment, offering details on location, dimensions and whether there is access to an appropriate power source. If successful, it could be rolled out nationwide.

“Currently, mobile companies are finding it difficult to get the data they need to check that a lamppost, bus shelter or public building is suitable for hosting their kit,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez. “These eight pilots will help solve this by modernising the way local authorities and operators work together in a way that ultimately delivers faster, more reliable mobile coverage for millions of people.”

The pilot marks a shift in attitudes, with the mobile industry often arguing that local governments saw licences for their assets as a moneymaking exercise rather than an opportunity for long-term benefit. Separately, there has also been frustration at the relatively laborious planning permission process.

“Reducing the time it takes to deploy mobile infrastructure is important to enable mobile operators to roll out 4G and 5G across the country and to meet ambitious government targets,” said Gareth Elliot, director of policy and communications at industry body Mobile UK.

“The DCIA trial and its project winners will provide positive examples of how local authorities can use technology to speed up processes and develop effective relationships with mobile operators to improve coverage for all.”

Via The Guardian

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.