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Government assets could support 5G deployment



Strategy update for deployment of mobile networks highlights role of publicly held land and buildings, along with setting up of Local Connectivity Group

Central and local government bodies could play a significant role in the deployment of 5G networks, according to the latest update of the national strategy from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Its newly published document has added detail to plans announced in the Government’s Spring Budget, including efforts to open up more publicly owned land and buildings for the installation of infrastructure.

The update says that industry tends to regard government as “landlord of the last resort”, due to the prices it charges and unspecified non-monetary barriers; but it aims to change the picture with legislative reforms and programmes aimed at different sectors.

DCMS has been working with the Government Property Unit to make central government the “landlord of choice” for the industry, partly through the creation of Digital Infrastructure Toolkit. This should become available soon and will include a departmental rental guide, lease guidance and a standard lease.

It will also work with mobile operators to overcome other barriers and aims to report on the progress by the end of next year.

Aberdeen example

On the local government front, the document says that councils could play a proactive role in supporting 5G deployment through coordinated digital connectivity plans. It points to Aberdeen City Council’s deployment of a 5G-ready small cell network connected by fibre as an example of good practice, and aims to highlight this and others.

It is also creating a Local Connectivity Group to provide an accurate picture of local area requirements and encourage them to develop plans for digital connectivity. It has asked IT industry association techUK to provide the secretariat for the group.

Among other points, the document highlights the role of the recently announced 5G Testbeds and Trials Programmes to stimulate the development of use cases and business models, and calls for views on the prospects for deployment pilots in which public authorities could become involved.

Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock, said: “We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G so that we can take early advantage of the benefits that this new technology offers. The steps we are taking now are all part of our commitment to realising the potential of 5G, and will help to create a world leading digital economy that works for everyone.”

The Government has committed more than £1 billion to the next generation of digital infrastructure from the National Productivity Investment Fund, much of it to go into the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme and the Local Full Fibre Networks Programme.

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