December 11, 2019

5G in London: No boroughs have 5G rollout strategy

By Ellen Daniel

This year has seen mobile network operators compete to offer 5G to their customers, with the likes of EE, Vodafone and O2 all offering 5G in some capacity, although devices and coverage is currently limited.

However, new research from Tech London Advocates suggests that the underlying infrastructure necessary for 5G rollout is lagging behind.

TLA, a private sector coalition of over 8,000 individuals from the tech sector, obtained freedom of information data on 33 London boroughs, and discovered that 31 have no 5G rollout strategy.

Although network operators are responsible for deploying 5G, they must gain planning permission from councils for the installation of 5G infrastructure, such as using street furniture for small cells needed for coverage.

According to TLA, none of the London boroughs have a budget specifically for 5G implementation, with no boroughs able to confirm when they expect to have full 5G coverage in their area.

However, six boroughs have a councillor specifically responsible for 5G or broadband, and 11 said they were “actively encouraging local rollout”.

13 said that they have concessions contracts in place to give communications infrastructure providers access to public street furniture.

Russ Shaw, Founder, Tech London Advocates believes that a cross-borough collaboration on 5G rollout is necessary to avoid London falling behind other cities:

“Network operators have been advertising 5G-enabled handsets for some time. However, as these results show, London is far from ready for widespread connectivity. The capital’s multi-borough system poses a unique set of challenges to network operators working towards a cohesive rollout compared with other cities. It requires co-ordination of different budgets, timelines and deals between a complex blend of stakeholders, including the challenge for MNOs of working across 35 planning authorities and 34 highways authorities.

“The Greater London Authority must align all the boroughs under the same policy, proactively encouraging investment from network operators and fostering collaboration between them, businesses and land owners. Otherwise, London risks being one of the worst cities in the UK for 5G coverage – an unacceptable scenario when the capital’s global future is already under question.”

Read more: The 5G UK rollout is being slowed down by a law designed to speed it up.

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