London First once again held another interesting round table discussion today, focusing on the challenges and opportunities 5G will bring.
5G has been a hot topic for some time now and while the media has been largely focusing on the benefits 5G will offer, such as faster speeds, opportunities to advance technologies, smart cities, and more, some of the challenges of practically delivering the infrastructure to enable 5G in the first place have been somewhat undermined.
The cost to upgrade the current infrastructure to enable 5G poses significant limitations to the roll out plan. Therefore, only urban densely populated areas will benefit from 5G for the foreseeable future, which may in turn widen the gap in socioeconomic terms.
At the same time, however, rural areas benefit from better fibre penetration with approximately 9% of homes having access to a fibre connection vs 7% in cities.
London local authorities, who also look after a large proportion of the social housing stock in the capital, expressed the concerns of the residents. Health issues, road closures and diversions, disruption in their buildings while the installation works are taking place, were among the most significant takeaways. Although the industry largely views the roof space and equipment as assets, there must be consideration that these are people’s homes.
The discussion at the event, attended by British Land, BT Group, several London Local Authorities, WiredScore, BAI Communications and more, was a great opportunity to lay on the table what the public and private sector see as challenges, concerns and opportunities and allowed different points of view to be presented.
Digital Connectivity is both an international and a national issue. Good digital connectivity is the foundation of successful business and competitiveness. For example, London is ahead of the curve in terms of deployment and infrastructure compared to Paris and Berlin, yet lags behind New York, Tokyo and Singapore. Some argued that for London to remain the digital capital of Europe and claim its spot in the world ranking, it should compare its infrastructure to that of the US and Asian cities instead.
The final issue that stood out was the need to introduce a London standardised Wayleave to allow broadband providers to retrofit infrastructure and provide fibre to more properties. The City of London was one of the first to pilot a standardised Wayleave, quickly followed by Southwark and now Hackney. This issue, however, remains to be resolved on a wider scale.
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