Barriers to 5G could stop UK being a global leader

A new report has clamed that unless there is greater collaboration between the communications industry and government, as well as policies that support the rollout of network infrastructure, the UK will struggle to achieve its ambitions of being a 5G leader.

The first commercial 5G networks are expected to go live later this year, delivering faster speeds, higher capacity and lower latency.

The first UK services will launch in 2020, with the government hoping that Britain’s startup community and research capabilities will allow it to play a critical role.

UK 5G rollout

However, the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) has warned that the business case for 5G is uncertain due to the need to densify networks. 5G frequencies have more bandwidth but have shorter range, meaning there is a need for more sites and small cells to compensate.

Operators have long complained about the difficulty in accessing sites and getting planning permission, a situation that will be exacerbated by this need for more network microinfrastructure.

“Put simply, if the network cannot be put in place at optimum efficiency, the UK will barely be a 5G player, let alone global leader,” warns the BSG report.

It identifies 13 legislative, technical and operational barriers to investment and has made several recommendations for policies that would improve the ability for operators to invest in next-generation infrastructure.

Above all, it wants greater collaboration between operators, local authorities and central governments to raise awareness of the benefits of 5G and to ensure a smooth rollout. These include easier access to sites, power and fibre-based backhaul, easier access to public sector assets such as street furniture and greater information sharing.

“The Government is rightly ambitious in wanting to ensure that the UK can benefit from being a global leader in the use of 5G,” declared Richard Hooper, chairman of the BSG. “The difficulty lies in how to efficiently deploy the infrastructure that 5G requires and we believe that 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.”

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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.