April 11, 2024

Wireless Infrastructure Strategy Targets At Risk According To New Mobile Telecoms Industry Report

Government ambitions for widespread adoption of 5G are at risk of being missed if actions outlined in the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy (WIS), which marks its first anniversary on 11 April, are not followed through.

As one of the UK’s key sectors, where every £1 invested by the operators generates around £5 in the wider economy, a new report: ‘Rebalancing Act: Unlocking the Potential of the UK's Mobile Industry’, identifies that despite ongoing industry investment in infrastructure at around £2 billion per annum, urgent change in the investment environment is required if targets are to be met.

The report prepared by White Hawk Green and commissioned by Mobile UK, highlights a £25 billion investment gap, integral to the roll out of advanced 5G Stand Alone networks. If this investment gap is not plugged the UK will struggle to reap the benefit of widespread adoption of 5G in generating £159 billion in productivity by 2035 (as detailed in the WIS).

Findings demonstrate that crucial infrastructure upgrades are too reliant on an under-resourced planning system. This, alongside a growing social demand on the industry, unfunded by the public purse, to help vulnerable people and provide social tariffs, is creating an imbalance that further impairs the investability of the sector.

Mobile technology has transformed lives in the UK and globally and is integral to every aspect of life. Telecoms is recognised by the Government as one of the UK’s 13 Critical National Infrastructures.

Commenting on the report, Hamish MacLeod, CEO of Mobile UK, said:

“It’s clear the industry is delivering strong value through the generation of £5 return to the wider economy for every £1 invested by the operators, and so enabling a positive investment environment for the sector must be the clear priority of government.”
“As a country we are not making enough progress to meet the objectives of the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy which acknowledges the power of mobile technology and the ambition to be a leader in 5G.
“Reductions in spectrum licence fees, reforming traffic management regulations and Business Rates holidays for new mobile infrastructure would incentivise investment. In addition, adequately funding the planning system and appointing digital champions in local authorities would help streamline network rollout and get the UK back on track to achieve its targets.”

Key challenges identified:

  • Investment gap: Private capital currently funds the mobile sector almost entirely. However, stagnant revenues, cost pressures, and the need for continuous infrastructure upgrades are hindering investment potential.
  • Policy and regulation: Regulatory burdens and economic pressures are impacting mobile network operators (MNO) profitability, further constraining investment.

The report makes four recommendations:

  • At a minimum, follow through on policies and actions outlined in the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy.
  • Explore further policy actions designed to remove barriers to network rollout.
  • Implement fiscal measures that will have a direct and immediate impact on improving Mobile Network Operator (MNO) investment outlook.
  • Consider further actions that can be taken to support private capital being deployed in the UK by mobile operators.


White HawkGreen was established in 2022, advises complex stakeholder groups,investors, governments, and corporates on investment-related strategies.

Gavin Winbanks is the founder, he has 20+years’ experience in the public and private sectors, having worked forpolitical and civic leaders and the chairs and chief executives of some of theworld’s largest investors.

He advised and led Opportunity London, apublic and private consortium, on the creation of London’s new capitalinvestment strategy and co-founded the UK Government’s Office for Investment (ajoint initiative between Number 10 and Department for Business and Trade unit).

Mobile UK is the trade association for the four mobile network operators (MNOs)in the UK: EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three.

For further information:

Jonathan.Adams@Purplefish.Agency / Joanna.Randall@Purplefish.Agency

0117 925 1358 / 07538 914018

About Building Mobile Britain

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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

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