UK launches wireless infrastructure strategy
The UK government has launched its wireless infrastructure strategy to drive the adoption of 5G and 6G technologies.
The strategy includes several funds to boost the rollout and development of technologies, a national ‘taskforce’ to drive adoption and a re-starting of a delayed spectrum policy.
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“5G will be the cornerstone of our digital economy. With higher capacity and lower latency, standalone 5G will drive growth in the industries of today and tomorrow, including in emerging sectors like artificial intelligence where Britain leads the world,” said Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.
“Just take smart ports, where 5G-enabled remote operation can help us to move containers more quickly, efficiently, and safely, boosting our international competitiveness. 5G can improve our public services, too, in everything from education to social care. In transport, for example, we can use 5G to power forward progress in everything from real time travel information to augmented reality navigation and self-driving buses and taxis,” she said.
“Widespread adoption of 5G could see £159 billion in productivity benefits by 2035. To do all this, we need world-class digital infrastructure. Last year, we met our ambition to deliver a basic 5G signal for the majority of the population by 2027, five years early. And we have redoubled our efforts to build gigabit broadband in remote regions like Cornwall or Cumbria, together with our work to extend 4G coverage across the country through the £1 billion Shared Rural Network.
“Today, we are setting our sights even higher, with our ambition to deliver nationwide coverage of standalone 5G to all populated areas by 2030, ensuring that we can bring its full benefits to villages and rural communities well beyond cities and towns.
The Wireless Infrastructure Strategy sets out a policy framework to extend 4G coverage to 95% of the population, deliver standalone 5G to all populated areas in the UK by 2030, and invest £40 million to drive take up of 5G-enabled services for businesses and the public sector.
There is a new ambition of nationwide coverage of standalone 5G to all populated areas by 2030, and a strategic framework to help the private sector invest in 5G networks by supporting strong competition and investment, driving down deployment costs and stimulating demand.
The £40 million new funding to establish eight to ten 5G Innovation Regions across the UK. This will enable regions and local authorities to unlock opportunities using advanced wireless connectivity, tailored to each area’s specific needs and strengths, encourage 5G take-up in the public sector and in industry and strengthen the case for investment at the local level, driving productivity and growth.
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The UK government will set up a national taskforce to encourage take-up and investment at the local level.
There is also a focus on 6G and satellite broadband technology adoption and a ten point plan to drive rural adoption.
A Spectrum Statement sets out a new strategic vision and principles for spectrum policy.
Priority actions include working with Ofcom to enhance shared use of spectrum, reviewing the use of market mechanisms to support a strong investment environment and establishing a new framework to improve access to public sector spectrum.
As part of the 2010 Spending Review, there was a commitment to implement a Public Sector Spectrum Release (PSSR) programme. That finished in December 2022 having delivered significant value. The next phase framework for the public sector use of spectrum will be demand-led rather than allocate a flat amount of spectrum and ensure regular reviews of how the government utilises spectrum,
The UK government also says it is working with the local authorities and the telecoms industry to further trial the use of flexible permits (or ‘flexi-permit’) in a number of counties (such as in more rural areas). Currently operators must apply for a permit to work in each individual street. Flexi-permits would allow telecoms companies to work in multiple streets under a single permit. If successful, flexi permits could help the roll-out of broadband.