U.K. Government Encourages Public/Private Partnerships to Boost 5G

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The U.K. government has launched a $5.5 million competition to simplify the process of deploying 5G infrastructure on publicly owned assets by encouraging partnerships between the government and mobile network operators (MNOs).

“Mobile network operators will get easier access to lampposts, bus shelters and other street furniture to speed up the roll out of next-generation, ultrafast 5G technology under a new government trial,” said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

While so-called street furniture is ideal for placing 5G antennas closer to users to densify networks, carriers have had difficulty finding the precise location and dimensions of existing infrastructure and if power is nearby.

The upshot of the competition is to encourage local councils to partner with private sector firms to make the process of site acquisition more efficient, which would result in the development of digital asset management platforms. “This will enable local councils to more easily share data mobile companies need to accelerate their roll out plans and deliver the revolutionary benefits of 5G to people and businesses,” said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman noted the 5G rollout using street furniture was being slowed because gaining access “can be tricky.”

“That’s why we are investing millions to help local councils and mobile companies work together more effectively to bring people the incredible benefits of faster connectivity,” he said.

This is not the first time difficulty deploying small cell cells at street level has come up. Two years ago, the Guardian reported that the 5G rollout was being stalled by legal wrangling about the control of millions of lampposts.

“MNOs are clamoring for access to lamp posts and other tall structures in cities and are threatening legal action to any local authorities or landlords who stand in their way,” the Globe wrote. “Experts say the sheer volume of local disputes is jeopardizing the government’s pledge to get 15 million premises connected to 5G by 2025.”

Known as the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA), the pilots will support the implementation of digital asset management solutions for mapping and brokerage of publicly owned assets for use in the rollout of wireless communication networks. 

“DCIA will help accelerate both investment in and the deployment of advanced wireless networks,” DCMS said. “The pilot competition supports this aim by helping to create efficiencies for local authorities and network providers using publicly available assets to support digital infrastructure. 

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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