Connect Five: UK telecommunications companies to gain more rights to deploy 5G equipment

September 12, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Telecoms operators will be given enhanced rights to upgrade their equipment to improve 5G services and mobile coverage.

What does this mean?

Government proposals are set to expand on development rights already found in the Electronic Communications Code and ease regulation. Telecommunications companies (telcos) will now be able to increase the height and width of masts to get more coverage. Restrictions on where masts can be placed, such as next to major roads, will also ease. This is a part of the government’s plan to roll out 5G, which has also included testbeds and increased funding. £160 million was set out in the 2017 budget for 5G funding to ensure more coverage in rural areas. Recently £40 million has been invested in testbeds in the manufacturing and logistics sectors.

What's the big picture effect?

There have been calls for more investment to be made. Planning law expert Reza Newton of Pinsent Masons explains “despite its stated aim to be a global leader in 5G, these proposals are far from extreme and show a healthy respect for concerns over the local impacts of infrastructure proliferation, meaning that any truly significant developments will still require the express grant of planning permission”.

These proposals add to the 5G testbeds and trials programme announced in 2017. This involved the creation of 5G networks for test purposes. Yet a recent Infrastructure Project Authority (IPA) report criticised the programme due to a lack of available equipment. This is because suppliers would rather supply large customers rather than government funded SMEs.

Simplifying processes and taking down red tape will encourage innovation in order to meet digital connectivity targets. With 4G the UK was behind many other countries in the launch, however with 5G the UK is hoping to be one of the leaders. These proposals also emphasise using existing buildings so the development will have less of a visual impact.  The deregulation is not just for consumers to have better coverage, but also to improve industrial growth and productivity. The consultation for larger masts will close on the 4th of November.

Report written by Elizabeth Marshall

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