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London boroughs not prepared for 5G rollout, research shows

London boroughs’ failure to plan for the launch of 5G may slow down the rollout of the technology in the capital, according to new research.

Analysis carried out by Tech London Advocates (TLA) has revealed that just three of the city’s 33 local authorities have allocated staff to the rollout and only two have a 5G strategy.

The data, released under freedom of information laws, also shows that none of the boroughs had dedicated any of their 2019 budget to the technology and only six had a councillor tasked with overseeing 5G or broadband.

As TLA’s research notes, responsibility for launching 5G rests with network operators rather than local authorities, but Tony Cripps – an analyst at GlobalData – warned that a lack of cooperation with councils could hinder the private sector’s efforts, particularly when it comes to securing planning permission and cell sites on public land.

“There needs to be a much better understanding of networking technologies at all levels of government,” Cripps told NS Tech. “At the local level, there’s this drive towards fibre, but the sense that I get is that the people making these decisions at the coal face are not necessarily that aware of how you should build out networks.”

But blame does not necessarily lie with local authorities, Cripps added, noting that it is Whitehall’s responsibility to provide greater strategic direction. “I’m struck by the fact there doesn’t seem to be much joined up thinking all the way along this chain,” he said. “Even though with mobile networks, most of that build-out is going to be done with private money, nonetheless it would seem sensible for local authorities to actually understand more about what it was that those companies are trying to achieve and what they need.”

Only one local authority – the City of London – was able to say when it expected to have full 5G coverage, and it won’t be for another three years. Commenting on the analysis, TLA founder Russ Shaw said: “Network operators have been advertising 5G-enabled handsets for some time. However, as these results show, London is far from ready for widespread connectivity.”

He added: “The Greater London Authority must align all the boroughs under the same policy, proactively encouraging investment from network operators and fostering collaboration between them, businesses and land owners. Otherwise, London risks being one of the worst cities in the UK for 5G coverage – an unacceptable scenario when the capital’s global future is already under question.”