Lamp post rows could delay UK 5G rollout

(Image credit: EE)

The widespread availability of 5G in the UK could be delayed by legal disputes between landlords, local authorities and mobile operators over access to street furniture.

Reforms to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) sought to reduce the amount of red tape needed to use assets such as lamp posts to deploy mobile infrastructure, with operators frequently complaining of limited access, high rents and a complicated planning application procedure.

However, a report in The Guardian claims that the new ECC is too ambiguous when it comes to street furniture access and the lack of guidance has encouraged operators to take legal action if they believe they are being stifled.

UK 5G rollout

A tribunal system designed to settle disputes has been overwhelmed and there are no dates available for settlement until 2020. This, it is claimed, could cause delays of up to two years.

Operators have frequently complained about a lack of access to tall buildings and street furniture but have been more vocal as 5G nears. 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 5G expected to power mission critical business applications, having a reliable network is essential.

BT has demanded that local councils grant access to street furniture on a fair and equal basis, arguing that the current model of exclusive agreements stifles investments and could slow down 5G deployments.

Under the present model, mobile operators bid for contracts with local authorities for the exclusive rights to deploy micro-infrastructure such as small cells on furniture such as lamp posts and bus shelters.

Any other operator wishing to use these assets must pay a wholesale charge to the exclusive rights holder. BT is prepared to relinquish the nine exclusive agreement is has in place to facilitate the change and believes councils should charge a “low cost” flat fee to any operator who wants access.

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.