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Businesses Say Infrastructure Commission Needs TEETH to Help 5G Mobile

Monday, February 29th, 2016 (12:05 am) - Score 308

The Confederation of British Industry has called on the UK Government to give the new Infrastructure Commission “strong teeth” so that it can overcome political obstacles and focus on long-term planning to facilitate the roll-out of future 5G mobile broadband and other improvements.

The “independent body“, which is being led by former Cabinet minister Lord Adonis, was officially setup towards the end of last year (here) and has been given the task of overseeing some £100bn worth of infrastructure spending by 2020. Mind you last year’s proposal contained precious little mention of either broadband or mobile connectivity.

As such it’s perhaps unsurprising that the CBI’s new report – ‘Plotting the Course‘ – calls on the commission to focus upon eight key areas that need improvement and one of those is the next generation of 5G based Mobile Broadband connectivity. Apparently the list is based on the 2015 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey and on private consultations with CBI members.

Energy generation and supply

The UK needs to be able to extract and store energy from a wider range of sources, and embrace the circular economy. Developing new and innovative technologies, such as tidal, hydrogen, and carbon capture should go hand in hand with keeping costs down.

Low carbon energy

Moving towards a low-carbon economy means that more of our energy needs must be met through electricity. The electrification of heat and transport would double our current peak electricity demand, but would require significant upgrades to our electricity infrastructure.


The need for increased capacity is the top rail priority for 90% of businesses. Modern technology – digitalisation, electrification and high-speed technology – should be used creatively to meet future demand.


With almost two thirds of all journeys in the UK taking place by road, a long-term solution is needed to fund upgrades and maintenance to the country’s road network.


For the UK to remain at the top of international digital connectivity tables, it must continue to develop its mobile coverage and make solid preparations for the roll out of 5G technology in the next decade.


By the 2050s, weather patterns will have a significant impact on the UK’s water infrastructure. It’s crucial that the future impact of climate change on water supplies is factored in when planning housing and infrastructure.

Flood defences

With the total number of properties at risk of flooding set to rise to 2.1 million by 2050, investment must be kept up to ensure Great Britain’s flood defences can withstand the likelihood of increasingly extreme, one-off weather events.

Ports and airports

Connectivity at the UK’s ports and airports is a key issue for Britain’s exporters. Increasing accessibility to emerging markets with more direct routes, and integrating the country’s rail and road network with national gateways at the planning stage will give a real boost to British exports and lead to greater trade with global partners.

We are however a little surprised to find that fixed line broadband connectivity didn’t make it into the primary list, particularly given how vocal some businesses have been about it (examples here and here). Mind you both the Government and Ofcom are already looking towards making further improvements in this area, some of which might be announced in the next week or so.

Rhian Kelly, CBI Business Environment Director, said:

“The National Infrastructure Commission gives the UK the perfect opportunity to carefully and strategically plot the course of its long-term infrastructure needs.

It allows both Government and business to plan now for the challenges that the decades to come will bring, like the effects of climate change and increased demand on our infrastructure.

With a strong Commission, we can deliver the projects – from upgrading our digital connectivity to boost productivity, to investing in new energy sources for a low-carbon economy – that will enable firms up and down the country to get on with growing our economy and creating jobs for the long-run.

For this to happen though, it’s vital the Commission is not blown off course by politics. This independent body must be given strong teeth by politicians so that it can recommend significant infrastructure decisions, like building a new runway in the South East, are made for the future benefit of all.”

On the subject of 5G it’s worth highlighting the recent developments from Nokia and Verizon, which have indicated that the first networks could start to be deployed in 2017 and that’s some 3 years earlier than expected (here).

However the current pace of regulation suggests that the spectrum may not even be available, at least in the UK and Europe, for dedicated 5G services until 2020 or later. All proof, if it were needed, that technology rarely moves at the same glacial pace as politics and regulation.

On the other hand we’re still waiting for a solid specification, which might not happen until 2018, and it’s hard to plan for new infrastructure when you don’t know what it will actually look like.

Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar Andrew says:

    One thing 5G will have?
    Mandatory voice from the start.
    We won’t be having another complete balls up like LTE.
    Nearly 4 years after launch the EE (and others) network is still running 4G at low power for 3G voice fallback.
    I hope those who launched LTE as a data only service initially, have been fired.

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