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New report warns ‘levelling up’ agenda and Covid-19 recovery at risk if 5G veers off track

Speed Up Britain welcomes the publication today of a new report by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) which has warned that delays to the rollout of 5G could cost the country tens of billions of pounds in lost economic output. In their report, former Government advisers Alex Jackman and Nick King argue that the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and the UK’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is at risk without a faster 5G rollout – to the tune of £41 billion.

The CPS report, Upwardly Mobile: How the UK can gain the full benefits of the 5G revolution, highlights that if the delays to the delivery of 5G infrastructure caused by issues with the Electronic Communications Code continue at their current rate, by 2027 over 11 million households and businesses could be missing out on vital digital connectivity.

Using analysis by the independent consultancy Policy Points, the CPS 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 £41.7 billion by 2027. The report also highlights that the difference between the UK being a leader in 5G adoption or ceding leadership to others could be as much as £173 billion in incremental GDP over the coming decade.

To overcome the barriers to 5G deployment, the report calls for urgent reforms to the Electronic Communications Code and national planning rules to speed up the rollout of 5G, unlock its potential and stimulate growth as the country recovers from the economic impact of Covid-19. It also calls for sustained public sector leadership to deliver this, recognizing that supporting digital infrastructure is one of the key things the Government can do that costs little, boosts growth and helps ‘level up’ the UK.

The CPS warn that without these efforts, the UK could miss its 2025 deadline for gigabit connectivity and 2027 target for 5G coverage, putting the potential economic gains at risk.

Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, Speed Up Britain’s Campaign Chair, said:

“There aren’t many low-cost ways to unlock serious economic growth, but small changes to the Electronic Communication Code could unlock billions of pounds in our economy, drive the UK’s COVID-19 recovery, and deliver significant regional growth.

“All parts of the UK can benefit from this fantastic technology – but the Government needs to act now to avoid being left behind in the digital revolution.”

Matt Warman MP, 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.”