Digital asset management platforms to help with the rollout of 5G 

To help boost the rollout of 5G in the UK, publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure are set to be digitally mapped in a new innovation competition, launched today by the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) project.  

The £4 million competition will explore ways to make it simpler and quicker for mobile companies to infrastructure such as CCTV poles and traffic signals to host 5G radio equipment. Street furniture and buildings can be used to host 5G network equipment more cheaply, quickly and with less visual impact compared with traditional phone masts. However, network operators may often find it difficult to acquire the information needed to verify that a structure is suitable, such as its location, physical dimensions, proximity to the street or access to a power source.  

To help solve this issue, government will invest in piloting the latest innovations in digital asset management platforms, enabling local councils to more easily share data mobile companies need to accelerate their roll out plans.  

Due to the benefits of 5G technology over its previous generation 4G, the innovative use of streetside infrastructure in deployment doesn’t just mean better coverage for consumers—it will also unlock new “smart” services utilising the Internet of Things (IoT) for automation, real-time monitoring, AR/VR, connecting vehicles and remote healthcare. Some of these services are being deployed in UK towns and cities today – such as “How Busy is Toon” in Newcastle, the West Midlands 5G Road Sensor Network project and Sunderland Smart City.  

Local and regional authorities are encouraged to form partnerships with industry to submit joint proposals for pilot project funds that will test the use of digital asset management platforms in different locations across the UK. On completion of the project, the government’s aim is to support local authorities on the nationwide adoption of digital asset management platforms. 

For more information on the project, supporting documents and how to apply, head to the DCIA homepage. The deadline for submissions is 18 November 2021.  

Another infrastructure sharing update 

Today’s DCIA announcement included a long-awaited update on the Access to Infrastructure (ATI) Regulations consultation, which ran in 2020. A response is expected soon, and the government is considering giving broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground utility ducts to boost the rollout of full fibre broadband - including electricity, gas and sewer networks. This update coincides with the recent Fibre in Water competition – which you can learn more about here.  

Positive news for the rollout of next-generation connectivity in the UK 

Ofcom’s Connected Nations summer update revealed today, show that around one in four UK homes can now get full-fibre internet, as broadband companies have extended their networks at rapid pace during the pandemic.  

Ofcom’s figures reveal that just under seven million (24%) of all UK homes can take-up full-fibre internet packages - up from 21% at the start of the year. Nearly 12 million (40%) of UK homes can now get gigabit-capable broadband (able to deliver download speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s), which has increased from 37% in January. This includes full fibre and the fastest cable internet packages. 

It’s not just availability, there are also positive signs in the take-up of faster broadband services: Ofcom shared its measurements of speed and performance of broadband at over 2,500 households. Eighty-five per cent of those have taken-up superfast packages, up from 75% in November 2019 – before the pandemic led to mass home working and learning. This means Ofcom estimates over two million households have been upgraded to packages with advertised speeds of at least superfast level (30 Mbit/s and above).  

Take-up of these faster packages is reflected in the higher average speeds households are getting. The median average broadband speed recorded in our research was 50.4 Mbit/s – up 20% on the average speed in November 2019 (42.1 Mbit/s). 

For more details, including mobile coverage and performance, and interactive data sets, head to Ofcom’s website.  

Sophie James

Sophie James

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Manuel R. Marti

Manuel R. Marti

Programme Manager, UK SPF and Satellite, techUK

Julia Ofori-Addo

Julia Ofori-Addo

Programme Assistant, BSG, Central Government, Financial Services Team, Comms Infrastructure, techUK