Get to know the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator

There are a number of challenges to the expansion of wireless networks, including 5G, which the DCMS Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) project aims to address.

Accelerated investment in 5G and advanced wireless network densification will bring benefits to society, the environment and the economy. Yet this will not be without its challenges: particularly identifying and deploying additional site locations nationally.

Local authorities manage a significant portfolio of publicly owned assets which are often uniquely well suited to the installation of wireless telecommunications equipment. Simplifying the interactions between local authorities and the telecommunications industry promises to significantly accelerate the expansion of existing wireless networks and connectivity and by extension, support local economic growth and digital inclusion in communities across the UK.

Within the DCIA project, DCMS and its cross-government partners will focus work on four primary workstreams, which you can read more about below:

1. Digital Platform

Digital Platform workstream seeks to support national adoption of online tools which digitalise and to as greatest degree possible automate the process of finding and securing rights-of-use of suitable locations for deployment of advanced wireless equipment. The aim is to make the transactions between public sector asset owners and telecommunications infrastructure providers as frictionless as possible.

Over two years the workstream will move through several steps to engage with the key industry and public sector stakeholders, create a nationally unified view of requirements, support extensive user adoption pilots, and transfer best practices into the market to assist public sector asset owners and telecommunications infrastructure providers to adopt digital platform solutions and supporting services.

The first one of these steps, market engagement, was completed in the spring of 2021. During this time DCMS discussed the issues at hand as well as our approach in supporting the solutions with over a hundred organisations, including mobile network operators, IoT connectivity providers, tower companies, wholesale network providers, local authorities, devolved nations, combined authorities and various other regional bodies, platform providers, other data and technology providers, and our colleagues across other government departments.

Each one of these discussions has highlighted a range of issues associated with the need of the industry to easily gain access to publicly owned land, building and street furniture. It was also clear that both local authorities and telecommunication companies share the same objective of wanting to provide high quality wireless connectivity to everyone and everywhere across the country, but that they need to share common sets of tools and processes nationally so as to build greater understanding, collaboration and consistency.

Building on this, the key factor for the national adoption of digital platform solutions is the acceptance of their functionality and benefits by all of their end-users, infrastructure providers and asset owners alike.

To this end, DCMS are now creating a technical specification that will be jointly developed with mobile telecommunication infrastructure providers (including all four major Mobile Network Operators), UK regions and their constituent local authorities, government partners (such as Geospatial Commission), and potential solution providers.

This specification will be published in late summer of 2021, representing a broad stakeholder consensus and endorsing the common approach to national adoption at scale. It will provide a base reference for DCMS supported and region-led adoption pilots which are planned to take place in 2022.

Further information on the adoption pilots will be provided in September 2021.

2. PFI Contracts

Analysis of the extent and nature of Public Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts, relating to street furniture assets, is underway. This will be used to produce best practice guidance for Local and Regional Authorities

A Local Authority survey was carried out by DfT and DCMS during April and May 2021 with 32 affected authorities.

Almost half (42%) of Local Authorities have a contractual issue, which prohibits the installation of telecoms equipment on the PFI assets. 59% said that they have been approached regarding the installation of Small Cells.

With an improved understanding of the national situation, DfT and DCMS are developing a plan of action to address PFI challenges for local authorities, in relation to the DCIA programme.

3. Standard Contracts

Standard contracts made available for Local Authorities to engage with digital infrastructure providers

We have engaged with a selection of local authorities, to explore options to take best practice from existing contracts and make available to a wider network.

4. Standards For Smart Infrastructure

Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) for smart lamp posts are in development, and will be accessible here and across a number of other channels before the end of 2021.

We are engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and industry representatives, to help inform these standards.

If you are a public sector asset owner, network infrastructure provider or an interested party and would like further information or to express your interest please contact: [email protected]

Sophie Greaves

Sophie Greaves

Head of Telecoms and Spectrum Policy, techUK

Tales Gaspar

Tales Gaspar

Programme Manager, UK SPF and Satellite, techUK

Matthew Wild

Programme Assistant - Markets, techUK

Georgina Maratheftis

Georgina Maratheftis

Associate Director, Local Public Services, techUK