Connected Future: Connected Communities

The race to define and roll out 5G continues across the world, with governments, hardware manufacturers, and operators claiming ‘first and fastest’ trials.

In December 2016, the UK Government National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) published a report on the importance of connectivity in this country. The ‘Connected Future’ report outlines the steps the UK should take to become a world leader in deploying 5G mobile telecommunications networks, and ensure it can take early advantage of the new opportunities those networks might bring.

5G is expected to deliver ultra-fast, low latency (connection delay), reliable, mobile connectivity – able to support society’s increasing hunger for more and more data. 5G has the potential to transform a number of sectors, including health, transport and education, not to mention the connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) or driverless cars, and to support the Internet of Things (IoT).

Why is this important?

Future mobile networks will be critical to the UK’s economic growth and to drive our industrial base into the internet applications and services economy. This has the potential to put the UK at the forefront of this emerging technology.

What is the NIC’s recommendation?

The Commission’s main message is that mobile connectivity has become a necessity. Society and business require almost constant connectivity, regardless of location. Although the market has driven great advances since the advent of the mobile phone, government must now play an active role to ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel, while our roads, railways and city centres must be made 5G-ready as quickly as possible.

The report goes on to advise that a lack of government action risks the UK finding itself once again near the bottom of the league tables for connectivity as 5G is rolled out.

Government, acting as the ‘digital champion’ must ensure the country has the infrastructure in place to deliver 5G across our major centres and transport networks.

Major roads: Our motorways must have roadside networks fit for the future. The infrastructure should be in place by 2025.

Key rail routes: The railway network must rapidly improve connectivity. This will be best delivered in future by a trackside network. Government should provide a plan by 2017, and the infrastructure should be in place on main rail routes by 2025.

Towns and cities: Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships should work with network providers to develop approaches that enable the deployment of the tens of thousands of small wireless cells we expect to need in our urban centres.

In conclusion:

Getting 5G deployment right will be critical in a future where connectivity is becoming integral to almost all parts of the economy, and the UK will put its future growth and competitiveness at risk if it falls behind.

What next?

OS is working with Bournemouth Borough Council, the Met Office and the 5G Innovation Centre to model the impact of the built and natural environment, vegetation, and the weather on high-frequency 5G signals. The learnings from this project will help inform and improve the roll out of 5G connectivity to areas where people live, work and travel.

Read the 'Connected Future' report (PDF)