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5G Rollout Delays May Cost UK £41bn in Lost Economic Output

Friday, October 2nd, 2020 (8:43 am) - Score 1,992
5g mobile wireless mast tower uk

A new report from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) think-tank, which was penned by former Government advisers Alex Jackman and Nick King, has claimed that the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is “at risk without a faster 5G rollout” – to the tune of £41 billion. But they have a few recommendations to fix that.

The deployment of ultrafast 5G based mobile broadband networks via EE (BT), Three UK, O2 and Vodafone was going fairly smoothly until the Government suddenly did a U-turn (here) and moved to ban new core and non-core telecoms kit from Chinese tech giant Huawei – effective from 31st December 2020 (with existing kit being given until 2027).

At the time the Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden MP, predicted that the cumulative delay to the 5G rollout would be 2-3 years and cost operators “up to” £2bn (BT alone has allowed for costs of £500m). But delays also cost money in terms of lost revenues and wider economic benefits.

Using analysis by consultancy Policy Points, the report from CPS – ‘Upwardly Mobile‘ – estimates that if 5G coverage reaches a quarter more of the population than the Government’s current target of 51%, it will produce GDP gains of £41.7bn by 2027. “It highlights that the difference between the UK being a leader and a laggard in 5G adoption could be as much as £173bn in incremental GDP over the coming decade,” said the report.

NOTE: The 2019 Conservative Manifesto didn’t actually set a specific 5G coverage target of 51% or otherwise, but prior to that the goal was “deployment to the majority of the country by 2027.”

If the 2027 “target” is met – and 51% of the population can get a 5G signal by 2027 – the central CPS modelling scenario suggests that £34.1bn of additional economic output could be created between 2021 and 2027. But if the Government exceeds its target by a quarter by better supporting mobile rollout and instead of 51%, a 5G signal reaches roughly 64% of the population by 2027, it would mean that £41.8bn would be added to economic output between 2021 and 2027 – an additional £7.7bn in output.

Alex Jackman, Report Author, said:

“Digital networks and the services they support have underpinned our resilience to Covid-19 and they will drive our recovery. By expanding them, we deliver not only immediate benefits but also the essential foundation stone for 5G. This is no time for the government to be passive on the deployment environment – the difference between the UK as a 5G pioneer and ceding leadership to others is as much as £173bn.

Productivity gains to business, equality gains for regions and economic gains for the country are only as achievable as the networks we can access.”

Matt Warman, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“It is our national mission to futureproof the UK’s networks with revolutionary 5G technology. Thanks to government and industry action 5G is available in more than 70 towns and cities.

Alongside record amounts of funding, we are exploring how to bust any barriers holding back industry from speeding up rollout. We’ve committed to reforming planning law and to consult on whether further reforms to the Electronic Communications Code are needed and will consider the points raised in this report carefully.”

We should point out that any Government targets for 5G should be taken with a pinch of salt because, at present, the deployment is an almost entirely commercial venture, much like prior upgrades. But we do anticipate that the £1bn industry led Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, which is working to extend geographic 4G cover to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025 (inc. £500m of public investment), will also help to spread 5G.

However, the catch in this report is that trying to accurately gauge the economic impact of deploying faster mobile broadband is notoriously difficult, not least since most people won’t be starting from a point of zero connectivity (4G already does a fair job for many people, if not all). For example, the difference between 10Mbps, 100Mbps or even 1Gbps+ is largely irrelevant when talking about basic tasks like online shopping and banking.

On top of that we have to consider the impact of other things too, such as take-up (i.e. it can takes years for this to grow once a new service becomes available and not everybody will see amazing speeds). Suffice to say that reports like this tend to make a lot of assumptions and rarely bother to go back later to see whether or not they were right. Nevertheless, there is still bound to be an economic hit from the currently expected delays.

The CPS report thus makes a serious of recommendations, most of which centre around a need to update the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which governs access to land and property by telecoms operators. On this we should point out that various changes are being developed by Ofcom and the Government that will update Permitted Development (PD) rights and the ECC, which the CPS clearly hopes to influence. In short, these will make it easier to install taller masts, share network information and promote competition in order to support the roll-out of future mobile and gigabit fixed broadband networks (here).


The ECC and its enforcement must be updated to become fit for digital rollout, supported by interim, non-legislative interventions to speed up agreements between property owners and infrastructure providers:

1. To meet the UK’s need for digital infrastructure, the Government must legislate to ensure the Electronic Communications Code is the overriding legislation governing relationships and that ambiguities within it are clarified in a way that balances interests fairly but stays true to the prevailing importance of improved digital connectivity.

2. To discourage vexatious behaviours that delay site works, judges should be given more powers to backdate imposed rental agreements and to grant broader rights. Notification and resolution timescales for renewals should be brought in line with new site agreements.

3. A list of ‘trusted practice’ land agents that work to the intentions of the new Code should be established and promoted to landowners, alongside an awareness campaign that highlights the risk of lower imposed valuations by a tribunal and other litigation costs if no agreement is reached with a Code Operator.

4. Government must encourage and support all departments and sponsored bodies to allow access to public sector properties and assets under new Code rates and conditions and continue to provide assurance that ‘best value’ rules take account of the wider benefits of good mobile connectivity.

5. The Treasury should explore whether further investment is needed to specifically support 5G innovation in local public services, to encourage councils that have incurred a shortfall in revenue through Code changes to support contiguous and continuous coverage by helping them to understand and take advantage of the benefits of that better connectivity.

Stronger public sector leadership on the deployment of 5G is needed, across national planning frameworks and local development plans:

6. All four UK Governments must commit to review and change planning rules by March 2021, with a commitment thereafter to formalise future reviews of planning regulations.

7. Government should reform the strategic planning framework to compel local authorities to ensure that the needs of future mobile connectivity are adequately addressed in Local Plans and that new developments are assessed on how they might impact, or could support, local connectivity.

8. A time-limited cross-government team of officials should work with the National Infrastructure Commission to better coordinate national and local infrastructure programmes, including fibre and electricity networks.

9. The budget, staffing and remit of the Barrier Busting Task Force inside the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) must be ring-fenced, to ensure that the necessary resources and focus are applied solely to tackling deployment issues.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Its not the roll out they need to be worried about, it should be the telco`s half-assed implementation of the tech with well below par back-haul provision when they do.

    Both 3G and 4G in the UK is shockingly average at best due to the above and neither delivered on the promises of the tech because carriers refused to spend enough to do it properly.

    The same thing is already happening with 5G and unless OFCOM steps up to the plate and addresses the issue the UK will continue to lag behind the rest of Europe.

    1. Avatar Tom says:

      stop poisoning people with radiaton and take dare to play with our health.. forbidden those satanic 5g they want to implement in human and in technology so they can do what ever they want for ahow or for doesn’t matter what… NO AND No coisr it’s against every moral right they want to destroy… f off technocrats

    2. Avatar Tom says:

      stop poisoning people with freq. radiation and take dare to play with our health.. forbidden those satanic 5g they want to implement in human and in technology so they can do what ever they want for show or for doesn’t matter what… NO AND No coisr it’s against every moral right they want to destroy… f off technocrats

    3. Avatar Mike says:

      Government is precisely the reason why it’s so average.

  2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    What are you on Tom?

  3. Avatar Former Transport Insider says:

    The operators lobbied to have the Code revised four years ago to give them all the rights. I was working for a major property owner at the time (covering telecoms) and pointed out to government that this would back fire for the mobile operators. The MNOs tried to bully their way in and got told to sod off.

    The CPS really thinks that bullying property owners further is going to help? It’s the MNOs who are the problem.

  4. Avatar Adrian says:

    Mobile operators should be forced to provide a full rollout plan to the general public for EVERY area in the uk. I’ve had a 5g capable device for two years and still have no idea when my area will receive the technology.

    Being kept in the dark is not acceptable, as I cannot plan my technology purchases

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