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Eight council projects win funds to boost local 5G


Mark Say Managing Editor

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5G network abstract
Image source: Niam

Eight projects led by local authorities are to receive funding of about £500,000 each to boost the roll out of 4G and 5G in their areas.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced the winners of its Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) competition, saying they will explore how software can help to simplify local authority processes when telecoms operators request access to publicly owned buildings and kerbside infrastructure.

It said the move will pave the way for virtual and augmented reality services and support the take-up of innovations such as autonomous cars and remote healthcare technology.

The winners are spread across England and Scotland, reflecting the Government’s aim of providing fast connectivity across all areas. They each involve a lead authority and a handful of partners, with the projects as follows:

  • Asset Loc8tor, led by West Sussex County Council, which will collect asset management data from two-tier local authorities to improve coverage using council assets.
  • Berkshire Digital Infrastructure Group, involving six councils in the county which will use a new platform in test processes to help digitise site acquisition then test a number of scenarios.
  • Infralink-Exchange in the Tay Cities Region, which will promote the deployment of macro, small cell and neutral host infrastructure with data relating to assets and site assessments. It will be available through a dedicated website with a lease management tool.
  • NTCA Future Connectivity Partnership, covering the area of the North of Tyne Combined Authority. This will redesign processes with the aim of making it easier for network operators to know which assets are available and what type of equipment they can take.
  • The Outcomes Accelerator, in which the West London Alliance of councils will implement digital asset management solutions for the mapping and brokerage of publicly owned assets for use in the roll out of wireless networks.
  • Wessex Digital Infrastructure Accelerator, involving Dorset, Hampshire and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. This will build on work started by 5G Rural Dorset in mapping asset information to be used by telecoms infrastructure deployment organisations to speed up delivery and reduce costs. It will include a proof of concept for an asset portal.
  • West of England Combined Authority’s Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator. Working with platform partner Sitenna, this will investigate how digital asset management platforms can support the use of council owned assets as hosts sites for hardware used in extending 5G coverage.
  • WMCA, within the region of the West Midlands Combined Authority. This involves the use of a connected map of assets, simplified processes and standardised agreements to speed up deployments of 5G. The goal is to create a solution that works for asset owners and landlords, and a self-sustaining commercial model.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez MP said: “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. 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.

“It is all part of our joined-up strategy to deliver world class connectivity to every corner of our country.”

DCMS said the DCIA project is being run to collaborate with other programmes, such as the work on the National Underground Asset Register.

LGA support

The Local Government Association (LGA) expressed support for the awards, while calling on the Government to follow its recommendation of creating local digital champions to promote the roll out of mobile coverage.

Its digital connectivity spokesperson Cllr Mark Hawthorne said: “These pilot schemes are a positive recognition of this and could potentially be extended across the country. It is now vital that mobile network operators and the Government work with local authorities to deliver this programme.

“We have called for a local digital champion in every local area, to act as a central contact point to help facilitate the delivery of mobile coverage across the country as quickly as possible.   

“With the right funding and opportunity to work in partnership with government, councils can play a far greater role targeting communities most in need, driving demand stimulation and providing digital upskilling to support the roll out.”

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