June 29, 2022

Vodafone Research: Reform needed for towns and smaller cities to benefit from full 5G

  • New research shows that more needs to be done to ensure the UK doesn’t miss out on the full economic benefits of 5G technology.
  • Failing to attract investment in 5G will undermine the Levelling Up agenda, with towns and smaller cities having the most to lose from failing to make the UK a great place to invest in the new technology.
  • A pro-investment environment is worth £7bn per year to the UK economy by 2030.

Making the UK an attractive place for investment in future 5G technology is essential if we are to harness its full economic benefit. Not doing so could cost the UK economy up to £7bn per year. Towns and smaller cities will be the ones to miss out most in the current regulatory and policy environment, according to new research commissioned by Vodafone UK.  

The benefits of full 5G – developing high capacity, standalone infrastructure rather than building on top of existing 4G equipment – are enormous, especially for industrial uses such as smart factories, and public services such as hospitals which will require ultra-reliable and ultra-low-latency communications.  

However, this all depends on significant investment across all parts of the country.  The report warns that the difference between an attractive and an unattractive investment environment is worth £7bn per year to the UK economy by 2030 – most of which will be seen outside London and other major cities.

The biggest cities previously saw the fastest 4G rollout and are now well-positioned to attract investment in 5G. But smaller cities and medium-sized towns are at risk of missing out if the changes aren’t made quickly.

The report identifies 58 local authority areas which would see a high or very high benefit from a good investment environment for 5G – and which would fall further behind if investment continues to be limited to major cities. These are in every region of the UK except London, and include County Durham, Swansea ,Midlothian, North East Somerset, Pendle and Sheffield.

The report makes a series of recommendations to support investment in full 5G across the UK, including:

  • The Government should publish an updated 5G  strategy which sets out specific ambitions for the rollout of full 5G networks, underpinned by policy and regulatory reform that would enable these ambitions to be met
  • Government should use its procuring power to create market demand in 5G related services. For example, the installation of smart energy management systems in all public buildings would reduce emissions in those buildings, expand interest in, and the market for, these systems elsewhere, and save money on energy     bills
  • Planning rules need to be set in such a way that they do not stop 5G infrastructure from being rolled out where it is needed and wanted
  • The business rates system needs to avoid deterring investment in high-value infrastructure 
  • Net neutrality regulations should enable mobile operators to offer innovative new products and services to customers and meet increasing demands on the network, making use of the full technological capabilities of 5G
  • The approach to spectrum fees needs to change so that the money can be reinvested in network deployment

Ahmed Essam, CEO, Vodafone UK said:

“5G technology enables both massive innovation and huge gains in productivity, especially for industrial uses such as smart factories, and public services such as hospitals which will require ultra-reliable and ultra-low-latency communications. But the benefits of this will not be felt equally across the UK in the current regulatory and policy environment – we have to ensure the UK can attract investment in future technologies.
“5G rollout could be a major boost to the Levelling Up agenda. But it could also leave some places falling further behind. It all depends on getting the investment environment right.
“As our research reveals, there is a £7bn per year difference between getting this wrong and getting this right. We want to see the whole of the UK – and in particular our smaller towns and cities – enjoying the incredible benefits that the 5G revolution can deliver.”

To download the full Vodafone Digital Ambition 2030 report, which was commissioned by Vodafone and authored by WPI Strategy, click here.

For more information about Vodafone UK please visit:


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