By Andrew Conway, Director of Engineering, BAI UK

Our team in the UK welcomed the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) which was published on Monday by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Review commits the Government to making the UK a world leader in digital connectivity, embracing all the opportunities that creates for business and consumers.

The document has some ambitious aims, but offers an encouraging and practical approach to some of the technology challenges we face. These targets, set by the new Secretary of State and DCMS, include a new nationwide framework to reduce costs and disruption for fibre roll-out and a target of 15 million premises connected to full fibre broadband by 2025. It is exactly this kind of ambition that attracted BAI to London in 2015 when we set up our European headquarters.

Something I was particularly heartened to see was DCMS’ recognition of the merits of a shared network infrastructure provider – the ‘neutral host’ model – which sees an independent company enable access to mobile network operators. BAI uses this to approach deliver world-class connectivity in places like the New York subway: it provides equal access for consumers and ensures infrastructure keeps in lock-step with rapidly changing mobile technology.

A neutral host would allow for massive growth of mobile data use the UK anticipates, particularly in a 5G world. The Review also highlights it is likely to drive much wider deployment of small cell technology, which provides extra capacity in specific outdoor locations with high demand such as city centres and transport hubs. I think this will be a critical technology if we are to meet people’s needs to use mobile devices for more complex and demanding applications.

5G technology also has the potential to revolutionise public services across the UK, with opportunities in areas such as IoT and transport in particular, leading to smarter cities. DCMS and the Department for Transport are already paving the way in this area, with the recent consultation on providing mobile connectivity on the rail network, as well as the development of the new ‘Street Manager’ service; which allows local authorities and utility companies to improve coordination of street and roadworks and minimise disruption to journeys.

This is a really exciting time. Things are moving and it is a great opportunity for the UK to take a lead in digital connectivity.