The government has been urged to take action to ensure that the rollout of the UK’s 5G mobile network is handled better than the rollout of 4G, as the inadequacies of the current network are exposed.
According to a report entitled Connected Future by the National Infrastructure Commission, the UK ranks 54th in the world for 4G availability, with our network worse than countries including Albania, Panama and Peru.
The Commission’s central finding is that mobile connectivity has become a necessity and securing the mobile networks necessary to put the UK at the forefront of this emerging technology will be critical to the growth of our economy.
To achieve this the report makes several suggestions, including the creation of a digital champion, backed by a cabinet minister, who will spearhead the change. The government also needs to start planning to ensure key rail routes and major roads will be 5G.
The report also urges the government and Ofcom to develop a meaningful set of metrics that represent the coverage people actually receive and use these to determine a mobile Universal Service Obligation so that consumers can access essential services where they are needed.
Releasing the report, Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission said: “5G is the future – ultra-fast, and ultra-reliable it has the potential to change our lives and our economy in ways we cannot even imagine today. But the UK is currently languishing in the digital slow lane.
“Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time. Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru.
“Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.
“5G offers us a chance to start again and get ahead. If government acts now we can ensure our major transport networks and urban centres are 5G ready in time to give British industry every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications.
“But none of this will matter unless we bring our mobile network up to speed. The existing system does not provide the level of coverage we will need in our connected future. We need a new universal service obligation which ensures that the mobile essentials – like text, talk and data – are available to us wherever we need them.
“From connected vehicles to the Internet of Things, 5G will support a whole new way of communicating and doing business. The UK must not be left behind.”