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North of Tyne Gets GBP7m for 5G and Future Connectivity Fund

Monday, Aug 9th, 2021 (9:22 am) - Score 504
farming rural broadband mobile and cows

The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), which represents Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland in England, recently announced that they will put £7 million toward a new 5G and Future Connectivity Fund, which is largely intended to help boost mobile and “full fibre” broadband connectivity in rural areas.

The funding, which forms part of a wider £12m package that will also support start-ups and “unlock the potential of digital and tech businesses“, will form the foundation for a new scheme that has been split into two complementary programmes.

One programme will focus on accelerating the commercial deployment of broadband internet connectivity (i.e. the aim being to facilitate rather than fund direct deployments), while the other will work to encourage a faster rollout of ultrafast 5G mobile networks and technologies in the region.


At present, none of the necessary market engagement activity for this programme has begun, and no proposals have been made, thus so we don’t yet know what the outcome of all this will actually be. A recently published agenda document from last month’s cabinet meeting sheds a little more light.

Extract from 27th July 2021 NTCA Cabinet Meeting

Accelerating commercial deployment of internet connectivity

This strand will involve the proactive development of a ‘digital connectivity and infrastructure needs assessment’. It will develop a clear view on the actions required to address failures in the provision of fibre and 4G and 5G connectivity. Public investment will facilitate rather than fund direct deployment: the focus will be to encourage faster commercial roll out and greater coverage. The work will include pre-emptive outline business case development for future government investment – which is typically awarded on a competitive basis

By conducting a shared state of play analysis, we will identify digital infrastructure needs and priorities for future investment – representing a down payment in preparedness to access future Government resources.

As part of this work we will also seek and consider any proposals for work to remove barriers to connectivity infrastructure deployment. Expressions of interest will be sought for outline investment cases for ‘Deployment Barrier Busting’ – with the potential that North of Tyne funding could be used alongside commercial, government or Local Authority funding to accelerate deployment.

NTCA 5G Innovation Programme

This proposal is to run an open process to shape 5G investment and commercial opportunities in the area. We will do this by beginning direct engagement with the private sector to bring forward industry specific propositions for consideration. This will enable NTCA to stimulate the market – encouraging faster roll out of 5G in the region, and connecting this new technology to the industries, skills and data analytics capabilities that are important to us.

The proposed components of this programme are:

– First, to work with telecoms providers to establish opportunities to accelerate the pace of 5G implementation in our region

– Second, to raise awareness of opportunities to increase competitiveness through 5G by driving industrial innovation – this will include working with key industries to run specific proof of concept trials, building on existing knowledge and use cases and developing new ones – e.g. in health, engineering or rural agriculture.

– Third, to establish a unique 5G ‘accelerator’/innovation centre facility; this will enable businesses to immerse themselves in a live 5G network and to work with other organisations to establish how 5G can unlock new applications and services.

The expected outcomes – which will be tested through business case evaluation – will be job and business growth opportunities, together with faster implementation of 5G technologies and avoiding the risk of the NTCA area falling ‘behind the curve’ on 5G implementation. This is particularly important as expectations of both residents and businesses adapt – with the highest levels of digital connectivity creating new employment and leisure opportunities, broadening access to services and facilitating lower-carbon living. The Future Connectivity Programme will therefore both directly and indirectly supports the Combined Authority’s wider ambitions.

In practice, most of this funding will probably end up going toward rural parts of Northumberland, which accounts for most of the NTCA areas that suffer from poor digital connectivity. We could also see it as helping to support both the wider £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout programme and the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) project, which aims to improve geographic 4G mobile coverage.

Richard Wearmouth, North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Clean Energy and Connectivity, said:

“This will be a game changer for the region. It will accelerate investment in infrastructure and connectivity in the North of Tyne, supporting the industry-led innovation of our rapidly growing tech sector.

And it will give real incentives for mobile networks and infrastructure providers to roll out super-fast wireless and fibre across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. The power of digital solutions can help countless businesses emerge from the crisis.

From Artificial intelligence to data clouds, from Digital Innovation Hubs to ‘deep tech’ start-ups, innovation, growth and productivity, and technology will go hand in hand.”

The biggest difficulty here is that the proposed investment of £7m on this side of the programme is only a drop in the ocean of what might actually be needed, which helps to explain why it’s more focused on facilitating rather than funding direct deployments. So, while the extra investment is to be welcomed, it’s impact probably won’t be as big as the sound bites in their announcement.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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2 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Sounds to me like another useless bureaucracy undertaking “studies” and producing voluminous reports (or “bumf”) which nobody reads, rather than atually connecting anybody up.

    Better to encourage the provision of infrastructure by abolishing business rates on fibre and halving the VAT on phone and broadband bills.

    1. Avatar photo Random Precision says:

      I live in North Tyneside and have access to 5G mobile, Virgin Broadband, Openreach FTTP and CityFibre FTTP so there’s has been lots of connecting people up going on. It’s nice to see rural Northumberland being the focus of attention.

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