5g tower signal mobile networks

Mobile operators could boost 5G coverage using lampposts and bus shelters

Image credit: dt

The government has unveiled plans to give mobile network operators easier access to lampposts, bus shelters and other street furniture to speed up the rollout of ultrafast 5G networks.

While the networks powered by 5G technology boast the fastest speeds and the lowest latency, this feat is only achieved by using radio frequencies that struggle to penetrate through physical objects such as walls, ceilings and anything else that might interrupt the line of sight from user to the broadcasting tower.

As a result, 5G networks require a higher number of broadcast points than previous generations and rollout has been slow. For example, BT has said it is working to provide a near-nationwide 5G service by 2028, giving itself a full seven years to fulfil this promise. This is an increase from just 40 per cent of the UK population that can receive coverage on its networks today.

The government’s new project could help speed up the rollout, with CCTV poles, traffic signals and other roadside infrastructure used to boost coverage.

A £4m competition launched today will explore ways to make it simpler and quicker for mobile companies to use publicly owned buildings and kerbside infrastructure to host 5G radio equipment.

Street furniture and buildings can be used to host 5G network equipment more cheaply, quickly and with less visual impact compared with traditional phone masts. However, network operators often find it difficult to acquire the information needed to verify that a structure is suitable, such as its location, physical dimensions, proximity to the street or access to a power source.

In response, the government is setting up a new platform that will enable local councils to more easily share data with mobile companies to help accelerate their roll out plans.

Digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman said: “The lampposts lining our streets have huge potential to accelerate the roll out of 5G and reduce the need to build new masts, but right now getting access to this infrastructure 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 as we level up the UK.”

Hamish MacLeod, Mobile UK, said: “Mobile networks are critical to the UK’s economic recovery yet deploying infrastructure on public assets has often proved difficult.

“We welcome this competition aimed at breaking down these barriers and accelerating investment in 5G by piloting new digital platforms that bring together public bodies and mobile operators to make public-owned infrastructure more easily accessible.”

The government is also considering giving broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground utility ducts and in London, Tube tunnels, to boost the rollout of full-fibre broadband.

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