A recent report compiled by Great Britain’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) with the assistance of InterDigital Europe calls on the UK government to undertake “a significant schedule of work” to ensure the effective deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless services, based on findings that existing UK network infrastructure and the capacity and coverage needed to support future 5G services are lacking. 

NIC was established last year to assess long-term infrastructure needs in the UK and to make related recommendations that would boost the nation’s competitive position in the global market.  Entitled, 5G Infrastructure Requirements for the UK, the December 20 report identifies inhibitors of existing 2G, 3G and 4G networks that, unless corrected, are considered likely to hinder the introduction and proliferation of 5G services in the UK.  These inhibitors include (1) insufficient mobile network coverage along the nation’s roadways, the improvement of which depends upon the release of fiber network infrastructure as well as improved access to bridges and other structures in these areas, (2) lack of mobile coverage in rural areas, and (3) the need for improved mobile infrastructure along major railways.  Spotlighting issues of cell densification and poor spectrum management that result, at times, in signal interference, the report also maintains that “a significant increase in the number of small radio cells . . . is needed to meet the performance requirements of future networks in urban areas.”

An official of InterDigital Europe remarked that one goal of the report is “to showcase the wealth of untapped infrastructure already in place, but not being utilized, to accelerate UK 5G deployment,” emphasizing that the UK “has a real opportunity to take the lead and demonstrate how existing networks can be leveraged, regulatory challenges overcome, and technical issues resolved to ensure 5G is a success.”   Meanwhile, owing to “the increasing importance of connectivity across all parts of the economy,” NIC recommends that “digital infrastructure should sit at the core of the government’s industrial strategy, ensuring that the UK can take advantage of technologies such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality and the needs of new industries to improve productivity and the businesses of the future.”