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Mobile Operators Call on UK Councils to Help NOT Hinder 5G Networks

Sunday, May 12th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 2,833
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The trade association for mobile operators, Mobile UK, has warned that many councils currently adopt an “inconsistent” approach to improving mobile connectivity and fixed line broadband is often given a higher priority. Instead the group wants local authorities to take the future roll-out of ultrafast 5G networks more seriously.

At present O2, Three UK, EE and Vodafone are all expected to tentatively start the commercial roll-out of their future 5G mobile networks during the latter half of 2019, although their primary national deployments may have to wait until 2020, which is when Ofcom hope to release more of the necessary radio spectrum bands (assuming squabbling between operators doesn’t delay it).

However Mobile UK’s report – Councils & Connectivity 2 – warns that 87% of councils surveyed (reflecting a sample of 60 randomly selected councils with varying degrees of urban/rural geography) have not yet audited their assets for suitability to host digital infrastructure. Meanwhile 56% lacked a cabinet member with specific responsibility for digital issues and 74% had yet to apply for funding to improve local digital connectivity.

Worse still, only 28% of Local Plans make a “detailed” reference to mobile connectivity and councils often overlook this while still adopting a “heavy focus” toward broadband. Instead the Mobile UK report calls for “equal prioritisation” of mobile with fixed broadband by local authorities.

All of this is despite the fact that 94% of UK adults own a mobile phone and there are 92 million subscriptions to such networks. The GSMA has also previously estimated that the impact of mobile on UK GDP could be £112bn in 2020, rising to between £164-198bn per annum by 2030. But the report notes that only 10% of council economic strategies give a clear view of how important mobile is to future economic outcomes.

Gareth Elliot, Head of Policy and Comms for Mobile UK, said:

“Mobile connectivity has transformed our daily lives, and 5G is expected to take us even further, but we must ensure that at all levels of government we are equally prepared.

Councils have a vital role, yet while many are working towards a connected future, our research has found that there is still a lag in fully prioritising mobile connectivity.

With launch plans announced for 5G, now is the time to take the opportunity to work with industry to break down barriers and champion mobile connectivity, to ensure the next generation of mobile infrastructure is deployed quickly and effectively.”

Naturally Mobile UK is hoping their report will encourage councils to work in partnership with the industry to help “provide the certainty needed to assist mobile operators to rollout networks” and they’ve produced a series of recommendations to help shape that engagement. In theory they believe this could help MNOs to build next generation networks “quickly, effectively and in a manner that is economically viable.”

Mobile UK’s Key Recommendations

1. Put greater emphasis on the importance of mobile connectivity to the future success of local economies. This can be supported by the following actions:

• Auditing public sector assets as potential locations for mobile infrastructure.

Using public buildings, structures and open land to install mobile infrastructure has supported widespread improvements to connectivity. The charge for use of these assets should be set on the basis set out in the Electronic Communications Code, and not at rates that disincentivise investment.

Learning lessons from the rollout of broadband.

There are numerous examples – such as Connecting Devon and Somerset and Connecting Cambridgeshire – of how concerted effort has improved broadband provision in local areas.

Exploring different models of collaboration with the mobile industry.

Examples of current partnerships include regular catch-up meetings and round-tables, which support a collaborative approach between the mobile industry and local political and business leaders.

2. Publish a clear statement of approach to create a positive environment to build mobile infrastructure. This can be supported by the following actions:

Embedding mobile connectivity in plans for local economic development.

The development of mobile infrastructure should be included in Local Plans and all other types of local economic strategy.

Establishing “connectivity considerations” as best practice in the planning phase of new developments.

Any development – from upgrades to the road network to new housing estates – should consider connectivity requirements prior to construction beginning, not after construction is complete.

Creating local government ‘digital champions’.

This could be a Local Authority cabinet post or committee focussed on mobile connectivity, a senior role dedicated to making better use of mobile/digital technology (such as a Chief Digital Officer) or a council officer with responsibility to improve mobile connectivity. Digital champions provide a single point of contact and responsibility for mobile connectivity and will also be in a unique position to align competing interests within a local authority such as economic development, property, planning and politics.

One of the biggest difficulties that councils will face in all this is that their local constituents don’t always approve of new mobile infrastructure being deployed, particularly if it spoils a beauty spot or lowers the value of their homes. Ironically some of the same people often complain about poor signals. Not to mention disputes over land access and wayleaves, which can still occur despite recent changes in the law (ECC).

On this subject the proposal for a simplification of planning effectively means a step down of all telecommunications equipment into “permitted development” (PD), which would provide certainty in terms of time to a decision and does not fully remove a local authorities right to object via the ‘with approval‘ process. However this is a much softer approach, which might work for smaller infrastructure but making big masts PD could be a tough sell. Naturally nobody wants to be voted out of office and thus there’s a difficult balancing act to be achieved.

Nevertheless the nature of 5G means that it only works at its best with a much denser local network and to deliver that may indeed require more cooperation from councils, which could help with preparatory work in terms of things like organising site availability, power, fibre access and forward planning.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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27 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    Will all the operators be sharing infrastructure to avoid mutiple masts covering the same area?

  2. Avatar Kits

    There is some posting that say since 5G mast was pl;aced near their home the childrne have had nose bleeds and all the birds have gone. I think this needs more investigating since Brussels has stopped 5G on health fears. Just google it.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Link please, and why should 5G be different?

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Care to put links to these supposed posts then Kits?

      Why are the same fake stories being regurgitated that came up for 2G, 3G and 4G? Surely there should be an enormous body of evidence now to support these claims if they had any basis in truth?

    • Avatar AndyC

      As they said, google it…………

      https://www.google.com/search?q=brussels+halts+5g+over+health+fears&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBGB763GB763&oq=brussels+halts+5g+over+health+fears&aqs=chrome..69i57.8910j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

      Generally from the several write ups ive read it seems more like its being stopped because the equipment used does not comply with safety rules as the radiation put out is higher then allowed and the government doesn’t want to see its people used as test subjects.

    • Avatar AndyC

      personally i love this bollox, if its not the chinese/russia/usa/aliens spying on everyone its that new tec is going to make us all glow in the dark and have 2 headed babys.

      just wait for the news stories that the glass used in FTTH is the wrong type and polluting the earth.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @AndyC
      How odd that you’re following the line espoused by RT America and described in the New York Times article calling out its nonsense today. Specifically the bit where you describe the 5G mobile signal as radiation.

      As it says in the article:

      “Opponents of 5G claim the technology’s high frequencies will make the new phones and cell towers extraordinarily harmful….The truth is exactly the opposite, scientists say. The higher the radio frequency, the less it penetrates human skin, lowering exposure of the body’s internal organs, including the brain.”

      I suggest you check information sources and don’t take anything purporting to tell you about the impending 5G apocalypse at face value.

    • @New_Londoner I don’t think AndyC was defending the conspiracy theories, he was doing the opposite with sarcasm 🙂 .

  3. Avatar New_Londoner

    I note that the New York Times has picked up in the amount of Russian-led fake news relating to the so-called “5G apocalypse” heading our way. I wonder whether the various posters that have popped up on here recently are part of that effort or whether they are people that have been duped by it.

    • Avatar Watcher

      Several of the posters here and on other sites operate out of Toronto – you’d have to follow the money to be sure of just what their motivation is. Personally I wouldn’t rule out many of the conspiracy theories (anti-vaccination all the way to flat-earth) being “encouraged” by Russia.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Watcher
      As the NYT article points out, Russia Today America is pushing this agenda heavily, following previous campaigns focused on fracking, vaccination and genetically modified organisms. Oddly its domestic Russian programmes seem to be in favour of 5G, so presumably the supposed harms only affect citizens in democracies.

    • Avatar Watcher

      @New_Londoner, interesting. Russia does tend to have a zero-sum view of the world. For any gain there is a loss, and vice-versa. So if other countries can be reduced in some way, there is a chance Russia will gain. Reducing vaccination levels increases illness, increases health care costs, decreases productivity. Similarly for 5G, and general anti-science conspiracy theories. Russia also tends to foment support by “dissident” groups in other countries to do a lot of the leg-work in pushing these “theories” backed up by websites set up specifically to support the false “science” behind the claims.
      It is unfortunate that some innocent people get taken in by the claims, and end up promoting the same agenda.

  4. Avatar Phil

    I think councils should give more priority to fixed broadband (FTTP) than 5G (or any mobile G version). Constituents have a right to be consulted and object to any ugly structure that gets placed in their view and all the power shouldn’t be handed to the mobile phone companies. These same constituents will not be complaining about lack of mobile coverage or data speeds if they all have a nice fat and fast FTTP pipe into their homes, with their mobiles working just the same using Wi-Fi, which the mobile phone companies like to encourage anyway so they can have an easier time.

    Companies like BT/EE will be looking ahead, the best solution to coverage and speed would be to utilise FTTP and already up and running Wi-Fi access points. BT can simply over provision their FTTP connections and have Wi-Fi access points that are in peoples home create a guest network with Wi-Fi 6 seamless roaming, which they do already of course with BT-Fon, and provide coverage all over the place, without needing to build any towers.

    There will be some people arguing why we need 5G in the first place if it requires virtually every other lamp-post to have host a small mobile phone mast, as that model sounds very much like Wi-Fi deployments we already have! Why do we need 5G at all except for the ability for mobile phone companies to exist to lock us into their networks for a monthly charge? Many of us already fall back to Wi-Fi in locations of poor signal, and will be in our homes or offices connected to Wi-Fi 90% of the day anyway.

    The argument that 5G is required for driverless cars is just plucking a use case out of the air. 5G will not be required for any real time decisions because it can not be guaranteed to be available, and this goes for any network connection. The mobile phone companies need 5G’s extra frequency space and a protocol that can cater for more simultaneous connections because cars will be added to the growing list of IoTs, and the mobile phone companies will be wanting to sell a “sim card” into anything and everything they can, and need to support growing numbers of connected terminals, which is what 5G is really about. Still this could all be handled with Wi-Fi. https://www.networkworld.com/article/3378058/6-reasons-why-802-11ax-wi-fi-6-access-points-are-the-preferred-iot-platform.html

    So no, lets not give carte blanche to profit making companies to stick up their ugly infrastructure wherever they want without challenge.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      What is fundamentally different between 5G and Wi-Fi that makes one deadly and the other perfectly safe?
      The BIG problem with Wi-Fi is that it isn’t available everywhere – in fact I use 4G to provide broadband (and hence Wi-Fi), not the other way around. Given the coverage of 3G/4G now, I just don’t believe many people have to fall back on Wi-Fi to make phone calls. A far larger number of people don’t have decent fixed line broadband, so use 4G instead.

    • Avatar Phil

      @AnotherTime

      “What is fundamentally different between 5G and Wi-Fi that makes one deadly and the other perfectly safe?”

      My post was nothing to do about any perceived safety issues, it was about the eyesore of mobile cell towers popping up all over the place and the plea from the industry for more leniency where they can put them.

      “The BIG problem with Wi-Fi is that it isn’t available everywhere”

      No type of network is available everywhere that is the BIG problem, quite often I’ve no signal on my phone and need to use Wi-Fi wherever I might be, just how it is.

      Lets throw this back at you 🙂 Would you prefer a big ugly mobile phone mast just outside your house to give you 4G or 5G, or FTTP direct to your home? If your street had FTTP, and a bit of joined up thinking from the industry, someone walking down your street could have super fast or ultra fast broadband on their phone and automatically roam between each houses Wi-Fi as they pass, all without needing a big mobile phone mast or 5G, or 4G etc.

      Eventually all properties will have FTTP in the UK, its some way off, but it’s happening. So when the time comes that every property has available a 1, 2 or even 10Gig fibre connection to their door and Wi-Fi access points, do we need to overlay streets and lamp-posts with 5G? Some joined up thinking could remove the need for all that.

      Regards

      Phil

    • Avatar Joe

      ” Constituents have a right to be consulted and object to any ugly structure that gets placed in their view”

      Nope under planning law you have no such right.

    • Avatar Joe

      “. So when the time comes that every property has available a 1, 2 or even 10Gig fibre connection to their door and Wi-Fi access points, do we need to overlay streets and lamp-posts with 5G? Some joined up thinking could remove the need for all that.”

      Err? Fttp doesn’t change the need for 5g. You seem to badly misunderstand the different purposes of these techs

    • Avatar Phil

      @Joe

      “Nope under planning law you have no such right.”

      You might want to check up on this, its the main basis of the news article, have you read it?

      “Err? Fttp doesn’t change the need for 5g. You seem to badly misunderstand the different purposes of these techs”

      Try reading what I wrote.

      There isn’t a need for 5G, but there is a need for better, faster, more densely connected mobile connectivity. The mobile industry proposed 5G as a way to offer improvements, but there are other ways of providing this. Read up on Wi-Fi 6 and you will see it offers something very similar to what 5G proposes.

      Lets break it down a bit more:

      Two aspects to 5G: One, coverage, and the other density. It’s pretty easy to do the coverage, this is already achieved with 2G, 3G, and 4G, using lower frequencies and high powers large areas can be covered, this is something Wi-Fi doesn’t offer, other than point-to-point.

      Where you have density like cities, you need more masts, where you want more speed, you also need more masts. This was something Wi-Fi was designed for, covering a single building floor or home providing pretty fast connectivity. So a street of 30 houses likely has 30 Wi-Fi access points, and an average sized town to cover 4G needs just a handful of sites.

      However, 5G needs to come closer to everyone to provide the headline speeds, lower latencies and capacity for many more devices to be connected (hence the article, more cell towers and infrastructure that councils will be rejecting), so we could see a 5G access point on every other lamp-post to achieve the a level of performance in densely populated areas. Yet just a few metres away in every house is a Wi-Fi access point offering a similar connection, and 5G starts competing with Wi-Fi. Why do we need 5G on a lamp-post outside our house, or hundreds more cell towers, when all around us is Wi-Fi access points connected back to fibre capable of high speeds, and all our devices can connect to? Surely one solution is to utilise the new Wi-Fi standards and phones could roam onto access-points, something that already happens for BT customers.

      What the mobile industry is worried about is FTTP will get an easier route via council planning (after all once laid it isn’t visible so it will), and their applications for umpteen mobile towers or boxes on lamp-posts in a town will be delayed through planning or rejected altogether, so FTTP gets installed faster, and once everyone has ultrafast FTTP on their mobile phones via their Wi-Fi access point in their homes, the need for 5G is less. On mobile devices there is no killer application (yet) that requires 5G when out and about, so quite rightly the industry is worried about take up, after all, smart phone sales are already slowing, and they need 5G to get people spending more money.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I’m not worried about 5G in every lamp post, and I do have a couple of wireless masts in view from my house – in fact there are more wireless masts than lamp posts visible from my house! We could do with a couple more wireless masts to improve coverage in the locality – a short walk away there is absolutely no phone coverage at all. There’s also no FTTP for miles, and that isn’t likely to change for a few years.

  5. Avatar Phil

    @AnotherTime

    “I’m not worried about 5G in every lamp post”

    Well you didn’t answer my question, given a choice of a mobile phone mast outside your house or FTTP, assuming delivered in the same time frames, which would you prefer?

    Also why be so selfish? It isn’t just about the individual, you may live in an area where it doesn’t matter the landscape is littered with street furniture or you can see mobile phone masts everywhere, or you simply only care about looking down at your smart phone 24/7, but that’s not everyone’s opinion or priority.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      The phone mast and FTTP provide different things.
      FTTP would be great as I work from home and need decent broadband – and it should arrive in a few years, but as Gigaclear charge £100pm for their cheapest 100Mbps business FTTP connection (no IPv6, static IP extra cost) I’ll probably stick with my Three 4G mobile broadband which might well be nearly as fast by then.
      The phone mast gives coverage over a large area – unlike FTTP based Wi-Fi – so I can use my phone when I’m out of the house.
      As for landscape, where I live is very scenic – there simply isn’t any street furniture (at night there is one visible street lamp less than a mile away), and the mobile masts are not unduly intrusive.
      You might want to preserve your view, but don’t deny the rest of us the benefits of decent connectivity.

  6. Avatar Meadmodj

    There are two issues here. The physical ascetics and the impact on the environment including us humans.

    Whether 5G or WIFI local people via there councillors need to be able to assess their impact and despite current planning law be able to choose. The industry is applying further pressure to remove controls but in my view they should do more to provide confidence that antennas will be as inconspicuous as possible, avoid power cabinets on our pavements and minimise unnecessary overbuild.

    “5G” is just a set of technology/protocols. So the difference isn’t 4G/5G/WIFI it is the frequency spectrums released for use, maximum transmitter power, attenuation, ambient RF levels we generally experience and the period of exposure. Even for 5G there will be differences between the early 5G rollouts and mmWave due to the spectrums involved. Extreme polarised views (like most subjects these days) in this case from “completely safe” to “birds falling” come from a void in information. The ICNIRP have now completed their public consultation on their “GUIDELINES FOR LIMITING EXPOSURE TO TIME-VARYING ELECTRIC, MAGNETIC AND ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS (100 kHz TO 300 GHz)-(Draft)” (radiofrequency) so hopefully their report will appear later this year. This will include nerve stimulation, membrane permeabilisation and temperature elevation. It also acknowledges but does not address simultaneous exposure to multiple frequency fields. It is unlikely however there will be any significant change in the recommendations except those exposed to high levels such as medical personnel or working in equipment environments.

    What is important is that clear guidelines and policies are followed by governments, that these are published/enforced/audited and that they are not swayed by industry lobbyists and other vested interests. The choice should be the most appropriate technology for the task in hand. Unfortunately this is not always the case and is often more dependent on manufacturing volumes and unit cost.

    As MJ has highlighted before there are probably much higher risks in our lives but in my view we should remain vigilant regarding the 5G excitement and individually we can still make personal decisions to minimise the intensity and duration of our exposure to all the RF in our daily lives.

  7. Avatar Phil

    @AnotherTim

    “The phone mast gives coverage over a large area – unlike FTTP based Wi-Fi – so I can use my phone when I’m out of the house.”

    Which you can already to with 4G. This article relates to a huge amount of additional hardware that needs to be deployed for 5G in order to provide coverage, density and data-rates that have been promoted for 5G, all of which we don’t have a use for at this time, and by the time we do, the vast majority of the UK will have FTTP and faster Wi-Fi speeds than 5G will support to give the same sort of speeds in city areas. When you move to more rural locations, 5G will only be used for coverage using lower frequencies, and speeds will barely be much different to 4G.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      This implies all wifi providers give free access to every mobile person?

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      The debate shouldn’t be between 5G or WIFI 6 (802.11ax). We need both. Currently there is a lot of hype and vendors jumping on each bandwagon based on their particular industry’s dependency on each.

      For IoT 5G is based on SIM (virtual) and direct connection to the mobile provider. WIFI 6 is based on AP/Router to a fixed network. Moving devices (Phones/Tablets) in future will invariably have both. I just hope the correct one wins on common sense and practicality rather than driven by profit forecast and your fridge ends up with a SIM in it by default with higher mobile bill than my daughter.

  8. Avatar Phil

    @TheFacts

    “This implies all wifi providers give free access to every mobile person?”

    Of course it does, it needs the co-operation of all mobile operators, who are already co-operating on other aspects of 5G and coverage.

    Or, BT could lease out their customer connections to any mobile operator who maybe pays an access charge (don’t forget BT already does a similar thing called BT-Fon and Virgin Media also does this using their customer connections), or various ISPs do deals with the mobile companies to lease out their customer connections, with customers benefiting from discounted rates if they take part.

    As time goes by, and it’s true even today, a lot of Smartphone users are rarely passing data via their mobile operators network. For me, my Smartphone is on the company Wi-Fi and so receives calls and text messages by Wi-Fi calling when at work, and when at home it’s on my own Wi-Fi, it’s only the commute it uses the mobile network, and as I’m driving, I’m not actively using it anyway, or other times I’m out, even then often I might be at friends house and connected up to their Wi-Fi. In fact I often stick my phone on flight mode and just enable Wi-Fi, it works exactly the same but it hardly uses any power in standby, easily going 5 or 6 days between charges with light use.

    With Wi-Fi 6 supporting faster speeds, more frequencies to avoid interference between neighbouring access points, quick and seamless roaming, and power saving for IoT devices, which is all the things 5G advertises as advantages, plus factor in FTTP roll-out happening everywhere so 5G is even less likely to be useful as fixed broadband substitute, it begs the question as to why all that needs to be over-layed with 5G?

    Don’t forget it will take many years for 5G to have the same coverage as 4G/3G, and at that time the UK will have just as much coverage of FTTP into the home with mobiles sat on those connections for the majority of the time, and with Wi-Fi 6, they could easily roam to various access points in busy areas. 5G doesn’t have a compelling use case to justify its existence, maybe that use case will come about in time, but maybe it doesn’t or is too late.

    The industry could have easily gone in a different direction, but of course does it make them money?

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