The last few weeks have been a busy and unpredictable time in British politics. But despite the goings on in Westminster, I am delighted to see the launch of new proposals for amending development laws to allow for greater infrastructure to support the deployment of 5G and extended mobile coverage across England. These proposals will make it easier for existing masts to be strengthened, as well as allowing higher masts that improve mobile coverage. They will also help businesses and communities to better experience the full benefits of digital connectivity and will lead to significant benefits for the economy.
I am particularly pleased to see the focus on the role of industry in the new proposals. In the consultation, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has outlined its desire to make the UK a ‘world leader in 5G’, adding that it is particularly interested in the views of industry on how new technology is best supported by the planning process. Having worked with transport authorities in New York, Toronto and Hong Kong to design, build and operate communications infrastructure, BAI knows that partnerships between the public and private sector can prove very successful.
While extending outdoor coverage is important, some of the most notorious ‘not-spots’ are on our transport corridors. In fact, improved connectivity has the potential to revolutionise the way we live, work and travel. Our recent Continuous Connectivity global research report – which surveyed 2,538 rail users in five cities including London – confirms this. We found that 90% of respondents believed better connectivity during their journey could improve their quality of life, with perceived benefits including changing to working hours, career improvements and new opportunities to move house.
Despite growing public demand to be continuously connected, there is still some way to go before UK rail passengers are able to enjoy full connectivity due to the strategic challenges of deploying trackside infrastructure. The Government has set out an ambition to deliver full connectivity on mainline routes by 2025. However, if it is to meet that target, it must act quickly.
This announcement reminds us that business has a vital role to play in driving technological innovation and investing in the new communications infrastructure that the UK needs. There is also a growing consensus that digital infrastructure is a vital contributor to the economy and society. At BAI, we look forward to contributing to the sector’s response.