Earlier this week Rhys Enfield, our Head of Infrastructure Acceleration, explored the 5G ecosystem. Today, Rhys outlines the barriers, considerations and solutions required to accelerate effective 5G rollout.

By facilitating the use of public assets, developing a connected map, enabling the delivery of more full fibre across the region, and through solving any issues arising from the Electronic Communications Code and the National Planning Policy Framework our Infrastructure Acceleration team have broken through barriers in the West Midlands.

Over the last five years, the legal and planning regulations governing the deployment of mobile network telecommunications and masts have changed dramatically. This has resulted in market challenges in areas such as determining compensation and consideration, access rules and rights – resulting in delays to the deployment of mobile networks and hindering the roll-out of 5G.

WM5G has achieved a standardised and simplified approach to 5G deployment which both mobile network operators and the councils in our region value.

Key to our success has been to act as a facilitator between these two parties engendering a philosophy of collaboration. To this mix we then bring together expertise across many areas, including: compulsory purchase orders, industry networks, local authority knowhow and planning proficiency.

This has allowed WM5G to make great strides barrier busting, cutting through much of the red tape but alongside the reality of budget cuts, skills shortages and limited autonomy that our local authorities have to tackle on a daily basis. We work closely with the Digital Champions, Coordinators and key stakeholders at all seven of our councils, continuously reviewing and refining our approach.

The cost of accessing land and assets to set-up 5G sites has been a major barrier for mobile network operators. Our code valuation process is helping to find amicable commercial agreements between operators and our councils.

By adopting standard code agreements and implementing the necessary methodological processes we’ve been able to accelerate the necessary 5G infrastructure in the West Midlands – in some cases by more than 6 months.

A fundamental aspect of the support infrastructure required for 5G is full fibre connectivity and we have again been working with councils but also Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Government’s digital team delivering broadband networks across the country, to create appropriate business models to speed up the deployment of full fibre across the region.

Another key component supporting the installation of fibre, fixed and mobile networks, has been the development of a Connected Map. Another case of working with the seven councils identifying and mapping suitable assets and infrastructure they own that could be made available for digital infrastructure. This layered with existing and proposed coverage plans from the mobile and fixed network operators provides a powerful tool. It allows operators to understand what public asset are available in an easily digestible format. The Connected Map really demonstrates an innovative way that data is being used to tackle some tricky issues.

Our pioneering work has recognised there are many challenges, but we have been focussed on making processes as easy and straightforward as possible, reducing timescales but importantly the costs to deploy 5G and in turn encouraging the mobile operators to do more in the West Midlands.

Our success has now led us to widen our support to the outlying councils within the West Midlands and also to sharing best practice with Government and local authorities across the country.

We are making our region 5G Ready.