When the UK government announced its new Digital Infrastructure Investment fund in the Autumn Statement, Phillip Hammond announced £740m ($920m) would be dedicated to the development of 5G.
Though there is no official launch date for 5G service yet in the UK, it is thought the new service could boost the UK economy by £7bn in 2026.
According to a new study published today by O2, in conjunction with research consultancy Development Economics, the direct economic benefits of 5G will outstrip those of fibre fixed broadband just six years after its predicted rollout in 2020.
The next-generation mobile network has been designed to bring seamless connectivity to mobile users. With four in five UK adults owning a smartphone and nearly 75 percent using this device to access the internet on the go, a fast online connection will be necessary for the UK.
The report believes accelerating investment in 5G infrastructure will unlock opportunities to sustain growth and boost productivity for the UK economy. This could be seen through the introduction of new industries, platforms and services, such as 3D video calls and smart home and health applications.
Mark Evans, chief executive of O2, said:
“Mobile is the invisible infrastructure that can drive the economy of post-Brexit Britain. The future of 5G promises a much quicker return on investment than fibre broadband, and a range of unprecedented benefits: from telecare health applications to smarter cities to more seamless public services.”
In addition to the direct economic value we could see through businesses using 5G, it is thought the ‘ripple’ effect through the supply chain could see the UK’s productivity indirectly boosted by an extra £3bn a year.
This sounds great, what is the issue?
It’s great to hear about the benefits 5G could bring to the UK however, the country may not be ready to implement 5G.
A report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) last year said that the UK ranks 54th in the world for 4G connections, and the typical British smartphone user can only access the high-speed network 53 percent of the time.
The NIC reported that there were “too many digital deserts … even within out city centres.” As a result, the UK doesn’t have the infrastructure in place yet to deploy 5G on a national scale.
Ofcom and the UK government need to work together to repair the ‘black holes’ in the current 4G offering. This can be done by ensuring major roads and key rail routes have mobile networks fit to rapidly improve connectivity.
Measures such as this will be necessary to ensure the country can take advantage of all the benefits 5G could eventually bring.