The Government should devote more money to 4G and 5G rather than fixed lines to provide superfast broadband connectivity to many parts of Wales, according to the Welsh body for infrastructure.
The National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICW) has highlighted the issue as one of the key points of its first annual report, along with decarbonisation and resilience.
The section on digital communications says the commission’s provisional view is that 4G and 5G may be the lowest cost technology to provide superfast connections to some Welsh households, and that a greater proportion of public funds should be allocated to mobile rather than fixed broadband.
It points to the fact that broadband policy is one of the areas under the responsibility of the UK rather than Welsh Government, and calls on the former to “lead the charge” in securing public sector investment.
The Superfast Cymru programme had provided access to connectivity speeds of 30Mbps to 93% of homes by January 2019, but the report says the main focus should be on extending it to as many households as possible using the lowest cost technology.
While the UK Government focus is on fibre, the NICW says 4G and 5G could be more cost-effective, and that it is seeking evidence on whether or what additional measures the Welsh Government and local authorities could take to extend mobile coverage. This will involve deciding what exactly the objectives for mobile coverage should be.
The NICW is aiming to set out a full plan for Wales’ infrastructure by this time next year, aimed at enabling the Welsh Government to develop an affordable strategy to meet its goals.
John Lloyd Jones, interim chair of the commission, said: “This report sets out our early thinking and identifies priorities for further investigation.
“But we must stress that this is still early in the process and we will not rush to make recommendations to the Welsh Ministers until we have found compelling evidence for infrastructure solutions.”
Image by Sean MacEntee, CC BY 2.0