February 2, 2024
New Report Reveals Local Authority Connectivity Priorities For 2024 And Reveals Continuing Lack 5G Prioritisation
A new report by FarrPoint provides insight into the connectivity priorities of local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales for 2024. This is the second report in the series, and while it finds that gigabit broadband continues to remain a top priority for local authority digital leaders it also finds that 5G is split evenly between those who do believe it should be a priority with those that don’t.
The survey covered a range of topics from councils’ views on 5G and gigabit-capable broadband to smart places and net zero.
Key findings from the report include:
- 51% of councils who responded have an up-to-date digital connectivity strategy (up from 43% in Jan 2023), but around 11% still have no digital connectivity strategy at all and almost 1 in 3 (30%) don’t have a digital champion.
- The importance of 5G continues to divide opinion. Even though respondents said 5G was important to them, none picked 5G as their top priority for 2024. Ensuring more areas covered by 4G was also ranked as a higher priority than 5G on average, suggesting that the business case and additional benefits that 5G could potentially deliver have not yet been widely demonstrated.
- There has been a notable increase in awareness and preparedness for the various forthcoming connectivity service switch-offs. For example, over half of councils were well or reasonably prepared and had plans in place for 2G and 3G switch offs – which are already under way. Only 2% of councils reported they were unaware of the issue.
- Despite the importance of climate action, for the second year running, aligning digital connectivity to net zero targets was ranked as the lowest priority by respondents. There was even a slight increase (from 2% to 6%) in respondents who said net zero was ‘not important’ to the digital department.
- Local infrastructure deployment challenges – such as issues around street works, permits and inconsistent planning processes – overtook a lack of central government funding as the biggest perceived barrier to improved digital connectivity.
Dr Andrew Muir, Chief Executive at FarrPoint, said:
“This is the second year of our connectivity research with local authority digital leaders, and it was interesting to see what’s changed – and what hasn’t – since our last report a year ago.
“It was disappointing to see that local issues, such as the planning process and permits, were seen as this year’s biggest barrier to improving digital connectivity. I’d encourage councils to work together with other public bodies, central government and telecoms operators to tackle these challenges, because they are surmountable.
“I also hope to see a change in approach to net zero, to reflect the pivotal role that better connectivity can play in achieving the country’s environmental targets. Net zero isn’t someone else’s problem – digital departments can make a significant contribution.”
Gareth Elliott, Director of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK, said:
“This report sheds an important light on the connectivity priorities of councils across the country. While it highlights key areas of progress it also continues to show that mobile connectivity, and particularly 5G is not being prioritised as it needs to be, especially as local councils act as the gateway to deployment.
I am also pleased to see that awareness of the 3G switch off programme is high among councils although operators are continuing to work with stakeholders where they need further information.”
The full report by Farrpoint can be found here.
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