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Study highlights full fibre and 5G benefits to councils

13/09/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Full fibre broadband and 5G can provide efficiency improvements and cost savings for local government, according to a new industry report.

Finger on digital sphere

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has identified possible benefits in a study, Impact at a local level of full fibre and 5G investments, with research from Oxera Consulting.

It says that local government has a pivotal role to play in the ability of telecoms operations to deploy networks and infrastructure for connectivity, and that in addition to boosting local economies this can provide advantages for the authorities.

While the impact will depend on specific uses and the evidence base is relatively small, councils could use the technology to improve services such as home care and achieve indirect benefits.

These can include additional income due to increased local economic activity, and helping to reduce problems such as deprivation and antisocial behaviour.

There is also a significant ‘option value’ associated with deploying future proof physical infrastructure, which reduces the costs of civil engineering in the long run and makes it possible to test out new services more cost-effectively.

Need for data

The report advocates that further data should be collected on the benefits to local authorities following the roll out of full fibre and 5G. This would help in future evaluations of investment and to strengthen the evidence base.

It also highlights benefits in other areas, such as productivity increases for existing businesses estimated at up to 3.8% in turnover per worker per year, and increases of 3.2% in the number of businesses operating in areas that currently have poor coverage.

Employment could be increased by up to 1.7% in some areas, and consumers benefit from new digital services, the report says.

 It qualifies this by saying the improvements will depend on factors such as population density, sectoral composition, baseline telecoms coverage and take-up rates in specific areas.

Infrastructure upgrade

Matthew Evans, chief executive officer of the BSG, said: “It is a strategic civil and digital infrastructure deployment. This upgrade of our national digital infrastructure will not happen without close engagement between Government and the private sector.

“We need sufficient capital, sufficient skills and the cooperation with every local authority in the country.”

He added: “What does it mean for Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil or the Midlothian hills? Without knowing the answer to this question, it is understandable that there is a disparity amongst authorities in how they engage with and approach builders of digital infrastructure. This report seeks to address that gap.”

Image from iStock

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