Government wants to ease 5G planning laws as more funding promised

(Image credit: Huawei)

The UK government is pumping in more funding into the UK’s 5G testbed project and is consulting on proposals to make it easier to deploy 5G infrastructure.

Culture secretary Jeremy Wright told 5G World in London that the government was committed to being a leader in 5G, revealing that a further £40 million would be released from a £200 million fund to expand the scope of the UK’s 5G trial fund.

Existing projects have sought to identify use cases and business models for 5G networks, with a focus on industries such as healthcare, tourism, transport and broadcasting. Manufacturing and logistics are the subject of the expansion, with the UK’s testbeds looking to see how 5G can boost output and make supply chains more efficient.

UK 5G rollout

A competition to determine the recipients of this funding will be held in due course, but it is the other measures announced by the government that will be of more immediate benefit to the UK’s 5G rollout.

Mobile operators have frequently complained about the difficulty in obtaining planning permission to build and upgrade sites, while there have also been complaints about access to street furniture and tall business.

These complaints will be more vocal with 5G because most of the spectrum used to power these networks has high capacity but short range, meaning operators need to densify their networks with new masts and micro infrastructure such as small cells.

With the government eager to be a leader in 5G networks, it says it will do all it can to create favourable conditions for investment in fixed and mobile infrastructure.

“It is vital that government, Ofcom, and industry work together to unlock the potential [of 5G],” said Jeremy Wright.

“We know planning laws are a crucial part of this equation … and I can announce today we are working to reform these laws to achieve goals.”

“It is right that the Government has announced it is to look at simplifying planning processes and we stand ready to work in partnership to ensure this can happen as quickly as possible to aid the continued rollout of mobile networks,” said Hamish MacLeod, Director at Mobile UK, which represents the UK’s mobile operators.

Wright also confirmed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had released 168MHz of spectrum in the 8GHz band to strengthen the UK’s 5G capabilities. This, he said, meant the government would exceed its goal of making 500MHz of public sector bandwidth available for industry by 2020.

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.