UK Cities Face a Digital Divide: 5G is the Answer

As we reach the end of an eventful week of politics, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing else matters in Government at the moment. While clearly there is a big job to be done at the top of Government to ensure Britain can prosper in the coming years, I want to look at opportunities away from Westminster.

In towns and cities across the country, local government and City Mayors are pressing ahead, trying to build a better future for their local area. Whatever happens at a national level, there will always be a local job to do – and it’s here that I’m excited by the economic opportunity of 5G.

Mobile connectivity is one of the key ingredients that keeps our economy and society moving, and a critical part of this is 5G. If implemented properly, 5G will play a key role in how our country develops over the next few decades.

With the potential to boost productivity and economic growth, the government rightly wants the UK to be a leader and early adopter of this technology. If we are to fulfill that ambition though, major investment and a new way of thinking is needed around digital infrastructure.

While good work has taken place, as always there is more to do. It’s why we’ve worked with independent think tank Centre for Cities to draw up a blueprint on how we can all make further progress.

The ‘Delivering change’ report published today, points to a significant digital divide in cities across Britain and identifies that a collective and collaborative effort is required if we want to convert the potential of 5G to reality.

The report makes a number of practical recommendations for the various decision makers involved in the building of 5G. These include:

  • Planning laws being made more straightforward and supporting the provision of digital infrastructure and 5G wherever possible
  • The current Electronic Communications Code, introduced in December 2017, being reviewed after 12 months to ensure it is still clear and fit for purpose

We would also like to see the Government setting up a fund so people and organizations can apply to enjoy a rent reduction if they open up their homes and land in order to improve digital connectivity in their local area. It’s landlords who literally ‘hold the key’ to unlocking access to ultrafast connectivity for Britain.

The report offers much food for thought and if it’s an area you work in I would be really interested to hear your views on it.

We expect, and welcome, debate around some of the specific policy recommendations – and we think this is the important next step. We must put 5G up the agenda so we can feel the benefits as a nation.