How the environment will affect 5G

We’re supporting the UK government’s £1 billion commitment to keep Britain at the forefront of connectivity. We plan to do this by helping accelerate the deployment of a next generation digital infrastructure through geospatial data planning.

With its ability to transmit large amounts of data, the revolutionary 5G millimetric waves (mmwave) will be vital to support Britain’s ever-increasing data requirements as well as new applications.

While radio signals at all frequencies are affected by surrounding buildings, vegetation and material types, when these interfere with mmwave frequencies the impact is much more pronounced. As a result, a key stage to achieving 5G in the UK will be examining how both built and natural geospatial elements affect 5G mmwave signals.

Below are a few examples which illustrate how the built environment will affect mmwave signals.

This is a busy station entrance with slow-moving crowds. If these crowd volumes are typical then this scenario may need to focus more on siting additional antennae to provide capacity and coverage. Attention therefore needs to be paid to surveying and identifying suitable antennae locations.


The supports outside the stadium made of a complex steel structure and the walkway to the left that is lined with trees would potentially block signals emanating from sites mounted on the stadium.


This is a good example of a large obstruction that would not appear on any mapping due to its temporary nature. As well as being both wide and tall, the fact that it’s an electronic hoarding confirms it is made of materials that would certainly block mmwave signals.


This is a busy pedestrian area with two key features to consider. The deciduous trees may not be an issue in winter months, but they could have a significant effect in the summer when the leaves are out. As well as this, the road above the pedestrian area would likely have an impact.


Multiple levels created by roads or railways crossing over each other such as this can present challenges in determining where 5G antennae need to be positioned. Standard 2D mapping will not provide a good enough level of detail to appreciate what the blockers might be and, as the complexity increases, it is likely that mobile mapping will provide a better solution to understanding this type of environment.


Our Managing Consultant Richard Woodling explores the techniques required to capture new geospatial features here and our full 5G reports can be viewed here.

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