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Sunderland plans to become ‘neutral host’ for 5G

05/03/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

Sunderland City Council is laying plans to become the first local authority in the country to become a ‘neutral host’ for 5G and fibre connectivity.

Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland

It is aiming to manage a process in which, working with a strategic delivery partner, it will enable telecoms operators to buy space from its infrastructure to offer their own 5G services.

The council has signed law firm Bevan Brittan to advise it on the procurement and make-up of a strategic consortium. This will involve advice on legal models and structures, the content and drafting of the procurement and transaction documents, negotiations with the bidders, evaluation of tenders received and final negotiations.

They are aiming to have a strategic partner in place by early next year.

The move derives from the city having one of the poorest ultrafast broadband penetrations of all cities in the UK, and the lack of any existing target from commercial operations for 5G investment in the area.

Timely delivery

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “We look forward to working with Bevan Brittan as we progress our plans to form a strategic consortium focused on the timely delivery of cutting edge 5G connectivity across the city.”

He added: “The continuing rollout of our ultrafast 5G network will augment Sunderland’s position as a global digital force and enhance opportunities for all across our smart city.”

Despite its poor fibre penetration, Sunderland has already deployed 5G ready Wi-Fi in the city centre and other areas including two tower blocks and a primary school, as well as traffic sensors to inform traffic management. It is now embarking on a plan to deliver 5G and smart city capabilities across the area in partnership with a commercial consortium.

Image: Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland by Reading Tom, CC BY 2.0

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