September 5, 2018

Achieving World Class Mobile Connectivity is a joint effort between industry and government, national and local

Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications, Mobile UK – September 2018 --

Mobile connectivity is today an essential tool for people and business. Over the last 30 years, a process of continuous innovation by the industry has allowed us to not only break free from wires to talk but also to conduct much of our daily business, social lives and leisure activities online, increasingly on mobile. Voice may have been the initial spur for mobile development but today data is key. With the 5G commercial roll-out beginning in 2019/20, the race is on to build and upgrade the networks that will underpin what many are calling the fourth industrial revolution.

Mobile operators are working hard to deliver these mobile networks. Indoor call coverage is now available to 92% of premises and data coverage reaches 88% of premises from all four operators.[1] In the last six months alone, mobile operators have added area equivalent to the size of Wales to the UK’s 4G mobile footprint.[2] This has been achieved by the mobile industry investing billions of pounds every year into network capacity, coverage and capability. But matching today’s and tomorrow’s demand is a moving target. By 2025 it is expected the average customer, who today uses 1.9GB of data[3], will be consuming 90GB[4]. 4G and 5G is and will be critical to this huge surge in data. The critical question is in order to meet this challenge does, the UK have the right environment to achieve the Government’s ambition to be a leading digital economy with world-class mobile connectivity? The answer to this question is no, not at the moment.

“The critical question is to meet this challenge does the UK have the right environment to achieve the Government’s ambition to be a leading digital economy with world-class mobile connectivity? The answer to this question is no, not at the moment.”

Too many commentators fall back onto a view that building mobile connectivity is the sole responsibility of mobile operators. This is not the case. Building mobile networks relies on partnerships: partnerships with landlords to make sites available for mobile equipment, sites that will need to be connected via power and fibre back-haul and accessible for repair; partnerships with local government who plan development and control the planning regime that ultimately provides the permission needed to deploy mobile equipment; and, partnership with government, national, regional and local, to ensure that mobile connectivity is prioritised in policy and strategy and is ultimately economically viable. Mobile operators will indeed build the networks but a breakdown in any of these partnerships will impede or halt the roll-out of mobile coverage and capacity and significantly impact the economic development of the country as a whole.

“Building mobile networks relies on partnerships.”

Mobile UK, alongside its member operators, has created the Building Mobile Britain campaign to build and enhance these relationships and is launching a new report, Councils and Connectivity: How local government can help build mobile Britain (see PDF below), offering guidance and recommendations for how mobile operators and local government can collaborate to create an environment that encourages and incentivises the build of mobile infrastructure.

Local Government has a key role in addressing the key issues of mobile deployment, and our report highlights three areas where it can have most impact: firstly, by adopting a proactive approach to mobile, showing strong political leadership and will; secondly, planning for the long term, by embedding mobile connectivity into every aspect of local government thinking; and finally, building partnerships and best practice, through the collaboration and exchange of ideas between themselves.

Mobile operators understand that local government is under increasing pressure due to budgetary and resource cuts but now is the time to work together. Mobile connectivity is crucial to the local economy and for residents to communicate with each other and the council and vice versa. Getting it right and building the right framework to enable mobile connectivity, such as making public sites available at cost-effective rates as opposed to a narrow focus on revenue generation is critical. Mobile UK and the network operators have produced this report to provide practical steps and guidance to identify and break down barriers to roll-out, including offering and sharing best practice examples from across the UK. After all, the combined value of 4G and 5G mobile connectivity is estimated to add £18.5 billion to the economy by 2026. Let’s work together to build a truly mobile Britain.

“Let’s work together to build a truly mobile Britain.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Mobile UK is the trade association for the UK’s mobile network operators -  EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
  2. The report Councils and Connectivity: How local government can help to build mobile Britain  can be found below.
  3. The Press Release announcing the launch of the report Councils and Connectivity can be found here.

[1] Ofcom, Connected Nations Spring Update 2018, 2018
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Three UK customer prediction based on Ofcom Mobile Data Strategy, 2016

Councils and Connectivity: How local government can help build mobile Britain PDF

About Building Mobile Britain

Building Mobile Britain logo

Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

Media Contacts

Gareth Elliott
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076

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