• The future of connectivity in the West Midlands has been secured for the next decade 
  • Fifth generation mobile networks critical to driving economic recovery in the region 
  • Connectivity crucial to society in post-COVID era, presenting greater future opportunities 

Birmingham City Council and Dudley Council have signed landmark lease agreements with MBNL and Cornerstone – the key infrastructure providers for mobile network operators EE, Vodafone, Telefonica (O2) and Three – to accelerate the roll-out of 5G network infrastructure under the guidance of West Midlands 5G (WM5G) Limited.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of the team at WM5G, both Birmingham City Council and Dudley Council will enable their communities to be among the first to benefit from investment in 5G.

The collaboration between WM5G, MBNL and Cornerstone, as well as some of the region’s local authorities including Birmingham City Council and Dudley Council, has paid dividends, with up to 50 lease agreements being secured for 5G mobile sites in key locations across the West Midlands, paving the way for more.

The lease agreements afford security for mobile network operators and provide a framework for the ongoing development of mobile network infrastructure.  Reducing the barriers and time to deploy the required infrastructure – cutting the deployment time by six months or more – will only enable the benefits sooner to the citizens, businesses, and the public sector across the West Midlands.

The biggest obstacle facing the deployment of 5G networks across the UK has been the dramatic changes to legal and planning regulations governing the deployment of mobile network infrastructure. Market challenges have arisen from revisions to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) 2017, causing delays to the deployment of mobile networks and hindering the roll-out of 5G.

The approach has been successful to-date; and having worked with all seven local authorities in the West Midlands Combined Authority area, the region was recently ranked highest in a 5G coverage survey undertaken by independent telecoms advisory company umlaut.

Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, said: “I welcome these new agreements that will deliver a boost to the speedy roll-out of 5G in the West Midlands.

“The role local authorities can play in bringing the benefits of new technology to homes and businesses is crucial and I hope to see more councils adopting the same spirit of cooperation to deliver our bold plan for a digital infrastructure revolution.”

Dr Peter Bishop, Director for Digital & Customer Services at Birmingham City Council, added: “5G offers significant benefits to the citizens and businesses in Birmingham. It will drive the economic growth of the city, offer new innovative ways of working and new business models that will improve public service and I am really pleased that we have been able to work collaboratively with WM5G, MBNL and Cornerstone to achieve faster deployment of this technology.”

Councillor Ian Kettle, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Enterprise at Dudley Council, said: “We’re pleased that our streamlined planning processes will help to support the growth of a 5G network in Dudley when it arrives in the borough. We are working hard to make sure this comes to the borough as soon as possible to help bolster our position as a key destination for new businesses for the future.”

Juliette Wallace, Business Planning and Property Director at MBNL, added: “MBNL is delighted to have successfully concluded new ‘code’ agreements with Birmingham City Council. Having these agreements in place ensures the swift and efficient roll-out of 5G and enables communities within Birmingham to realise the benefits of 5G connectivity.

“The agreements are the result of remarkable collaboration with the council and WM5G, which has provided instrumental support in facilitating the completion of the arrangements.

“As a founding member of Speed Up Britain, MBNL will continue to work closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and other local authorities to bring better mobile connectivity to more places across the UK.”

Iain Harris, Head of Special Projects at Cornerstone, added: “Cornerstone is delighted to announce the completion of 18 new ‘code’ agreements with Birmingham City Council and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. These new agreements will support the existing mobile network and the deployment of 5G technology to benefit local businesses and residents.

“The West Midlands 5G team has been instrumental in supporting both councils in these very collaborative negotiations using the Government’s new legislation, which intends to improve connectivity across the UK. All three parties have worked together to achieve this significant milestone that underpins increased connectivity in key locations as Birmingham and Dudley, thereby supporting the UK Government in its plans.”

Rhys Enfield, Head of Infrastructure Acceleration at WM5G, said: “Our programme has already helped our region’s towns and cities accelerate their access to 5G. Getting the infrastructure in place now, means that private and public sector organisations will get to experience 5G’s endless possibilities sooner. In turn, this will help to enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in 5G technology.

“Our input in securing these landmark lease agreements has been crucial. In promoting the benefits of 5G connectivity and collaborating with all the parties involved, we have ensured a much smoother path towards the delivery of upgraded 5G sites across the West Midlands. We can now reap the rewards of greater connectivity for the next decade and have the right foundations in place for the innovations of the future.”