UK Government wants to use lamp posts and CCTV poles to boost 5G

(Image credit: EE)

The government hopes a £4 million competition will identify ways to make it easier and simpler for mobile operators to deploy 5G infrastructure on publicly owned assets such as lamp posts and buildings.

Operators have frequently complained about a lack of access to tall buildings and street furniture but have been more vocal as 5G nears nationwide coverage.

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.

UK 5G lamp posts

Such densification is necessary to achieve the speed, capacity, and latency advantages of 5G that will allow it to deliver enhanced mobile broadband, power mission critical business applications, and support new types of public service.

Lamp posts, CCTV poles, council buildings and other assets offer a rapid and cost-effective way to boost coverage – with minimal visual impact.

However, operators find it difficult to access the necessary data to determine whether a structure is suitable when they devise their network plans. For example, they need to know precise location and dimensions and whether there is a suitable power source.  

The government wants local authorities to form partnerships with private sector firms to see how this process can be made more efficient. In response, the government will invest in digital asset management platforms that will make it easier for operators and authorities to work together to improve connectivity in their area.

“The lampposts lining our streets have huge potential to accelerate the roll out of 5G and reduce the need to build new masts, but right now getting access to this infrastructure can be tricky,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman.

“That’s why we are investing millions to help local councils and mobile companies work together more effectively to bring people the incredible benefits of faster connectivity.”

“Mobile networks are critical to the UK’s economic recovery yet deploying infrastructure on public assets has often proved difficult,” added Hamish MacLeod from Mobile UK, an industry body that represents operators.

“We welcome this competition aimed at breaking down these barriers and accelerating investment in 5G by piloting new digital platforms that bring together public bodies and mobile operators to make public-owned infrastructure more easily accessible.

“We are committed to working closely with the DCMS and Local Authorities on this project.”

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.