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PA Consulting Services: Localised 5G: How public-private partnerships can drive opportunity at the local level

Guest blog by Professor Ian Corden PhD CEng FIET as part of Digital Transformation in the Public Sector. #techUKDigitalPS

Wireless technologies and commercial models are changing…

How should the public sector engage with private enterprise in a changing world of wireless networking, to bring the best return for society, with economic, commercial, and social factors in mind?  

If there is one constant in the telecoms and digital industries, it is surely changing: change in technologies, and change in market demands and environmental factors. In this short blog, we examine recent developments with 5G wireless solutions and commercial deployments, based on practical experience in designing and delivering these to market for a range of clients – public and private.   

5G offers flexibility, which can be leveraged at the local level 

With new technologies, such as 5G, and new commercial and regulatory models, including shared access, neutral hosting, and shared spectrum, there is significant potential for digital transformation at the local level, for the local level: solutions can be developed to resolve the tension between cost efficiency and vertical or tailored requirements.  

Whereas ‘traditional’ consumer-focused mobile systems continue to evolve, and are now doing so with 5G technology, private and shared access networks are being deployed by enterprises and public sector entities, where demands are not being met with consumer-based systems.  

New commercial models can provide a win-win for public authorities and private investors 

New commercial (and technical) models are possible with 5G technology, as the radio access network (RAN) is fully digital, and radio nodes are disaggregated from baseband units and switching networks. There is nothing new in the concept of network and asset sharing, but 5G technology takes this to a new level.  

Regulation is critical, and can enable more competition, innovation, and consumer benefits 

With C-band operations, practical solutions typically involve use of spectrum licensed to MNOs, though there are already commercial operators in place providing neutral host solutions in this band.  

In the UK, the lower 26GHz band is expected to be released in 2022 for outdoor use, meaning that local deployments in urban areas can be supported, e.g. for smart city applications (in addition to deployments in the 60GHz band).  

Use cases at the local level can be compelling, and cost-efficient 

Examples of attractive use cases for public authorities and cities include: vehicular safety video camera uploads with lamp-post mounted 5G radios (bypassing cellular access costs, and offering tailored service levels), gigabit radio for events and outdoor spaces, and novel 5G services for students and consumers.  

With good developments in digital services at the local level, local authorities have the tools available to drive up footfall, quality of life, and economic prosperity, regionally. 

Public-private partnership: the best of both worlds?  

So why public and private partnerships? All local authorities have particular needs and these vary region by region. One size does not fit all.  

Public 5G networks are being rolled out by established operators, but this will take time, and there is no guarantee of tailored solution design.  

Local authorities typically own and manage local assets, such as street furniture, or even fibre networks, and these can be shared for mutual gain and potential revenue to local councils.  

Partnership thus provides access to the best of both worlds: operational excellence in complex networks, and the development of tailored solutions meeting local needs. 

The market is moving away from a one size fits all model 

Development of new industry and commercial models, supported by public-private partnerships, has the potential to drive up regional economic performance, supporting the UK Government’s levelling-up agenda. 

To read more from #techUKDigitalPS Week, check out our landing page here.

You can also follow the campaign on techUK's Twitter and LinkedIn - #techUKDigitalPS.


Ian is an established consultant in the telecoms / networks / TMT / digital sectors, bringing over 30 years of experience gained through global consulting and industry. He has worked across the full industry lifecycle from start-ups and investor funding, through strategic planning, to hands-on engineering and programme delivery. His consulting approach is with high impact projects that make a real difference, combining insight, analysis, pragmatism, practical experience, and hands-on delivery, yielding optimal value for clients. During the early part of his career, he worked in new systems and was awarded the Bell Labs President’s Prize for R&D and product development at Bell Labs NJ USA. Ian holds PhD and BSc (1st Class Hons, IET Prize) degrees in Telecommunications and Electronic Engineering, plus PgD in Management and Finance, UK Chartered Engineer, Fellow IET. Ian is a Visiting Professor at The University of Surrey (5/6G ICS), a role providing commercial and industry advisory support to the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Connect with Ian on LinkedIn.

To learn more about PA Consulting, please visit their LinkedIn and Twitter.

On Tuesday 5 April, techUK was delighted to host the Cabinet Office and industry representatives for the launch event for the UK Government’s Digital, Data and Technology Sourcing Playbook which was published on 28 March 2022. The DDaT Sourcing Playbook sets out guidance – in one place – as to how digital projects and programmes are assessed, procured and delivered in central government departments, arms-length bodies and the wider public sector. Through the application of what is commercial best practice, the Playbook addresses 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities that will ensure government gets things right from the start when it comes to procurement.

You can watch the recording of the launch event in full here:

DDaT Playbook Launch Event

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