In March 2016, the National Infrastructure Commission was asked to consider what the UK needs to do to become a world leader in 5G deployment, and to ensure that the UK can take early advantage of the potential applications of 5G services.

That advice was published in December 2016.

The Commission’s central finding: Mobile connectivity has become a necessity. The market has driven great advances since the advent of the mobile phone but government must now play an active role to ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel, and our roads, railways and city centres must be made 5G ready as quickly as possible.

This report makes practical recommendations to that end.

Government must take responsibility to secure our digital future, starting with the creation of a strong digital champion backed by a dedicated cabinet minister to drive change.

Government and Ofcom must ensure that essential outdoor mobile services – such as basic talk, text and data – are available wherever we live, work and travel:

  • Britain is 54th in the world for 4G (the typical user can only access 4G 53% of the time), there are too many digital deserts and partial not spots, even within our city centres.
  • Government and Ofcom should develop a meaningful set of metrics to that represent the coverage people actually receive and use these to determine a mobile Universal Service Obligation so that consumers can access essential services where they are needed.
  • Government and Ofcom should deliver this as a soon as is practical but no later than 2025.

Government must ensure the UK is 5G ready:

  • Key Rail Routes: The railway network must rapidly improve connectivity. This is best delivered by a trackside network. Government should provide a plan by 2017, and the infrastructure should be in place on key routes by 2025.
  • Major Roads: Our motorways must have mobile networks fit for the future. The infrastructure should be in place by 2025.
  • Towns and Cities: Local Authorities and LEPs should work with network providers to develop approaches that enable the deployment of the tens of thousands of small cells we expect to need in our urban centres.