How to unlock mobile connectivity’s full potential and build Britain’s digital future
Parliamentarians have a golden opportunity to deliver on the objective of economic growth.
Across Britain, communities and businesses increasingly rely on digital connectivity as a daily essential. With the importance clear, the mobile industry and Government have invested heavily to build out 4G networks to 95% of the UK. The industry is now rolling out 5G at pace, with the new technology already accessible by two operators to over half of the population.
During the pandemic, connectivity helped Britain stay connected and safe, enabled many to work from home and helped keep the economy running. The pandemic accelerated the digital economy, but also created a rapid shift in how we use digital services to enhance our personal lives. We can access online GP consultations, education, do our weekly shopping, and stay connected with friends and family.
The potential of digital connectivity in boosting productivity and increasing the competitiveness of UK businesses globally is huge. Research by the Centre for Policy Studies found that if 5G coverage reaches a quarter more of the population than the Government’s target of 51%, it will add £41.7 billion to GDP by 2027. But to accelerate the improvements needed to harness the full potential of connectivity nationwide, change in how we deploy our critical infrastructure across the UK is necessary.
In 2017, the Electronic Communications Code (the Code) that regulates the relationship between communication providers and site providers, was updated to make mobile infrastructure installation more efficient as part of the Government’s commitment to improve connectivity.
With the introduction of the revised Code, rental value for the use of sites to host infrastructure, is now becoming much more aligned with that of utilities, allowing vital connectivity to be deployed more cost-efficiently across Britain . Many landlords accept, acknowledge and have been positive with these new rental agreements and this has helped fulfil connectivity demands, keep consumer prices affordable and enable local communities to gain greater social and economic benefits by being digitally connected.
Improved connectivity should be a vital component of the Government’s ambition to drive productivity and economic growth. Research from Cluttons and YouGov found 82% of MPs agreed that future digital connectivity should be part of local development plans, and 70% of consumers were supportive of further infrastructure being installed locally to realise the benefits of a connected country.
The industry has collaborated with landlords and wider stakeholders to welcome the Code since its reform with some progress made. However, further changes are needed as loopholes in the legislation are impacting the deployment of mobile infrastructure.
“Connectivity is a key growth enabler for Britain, but we risk falling behind and missing out on the vast array of benefits that improved mobile connectivity can unlock. In September, the new Government put infrastructure back on the agenda for Britain, but the rollout of vital mobile telecommunication equipment is being slowed by unnecessary rent and access disputes, but there is a solution,” commented Lord Ed Vaizey. The former Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries added that, “the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will close loopholes and encourage fairer, faster and more collaborative negotiations empowering Britain to have the connectivity we all deserve.”
The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, is needed to close the loopholes and encourage fairer, faster, and more collaborative negotiations between industry and landlords. If this doesn’t happen, our communities’ access to mobile connectivity will be affected and the UK’s digital economy will be compromised.