The House

How to unlock mobile connectivi­ty’s full potential and build Britain’s digital future

Parliament­arians have a golden opportunit­y to deliver economic growth.


Across Britain, communitie­s and businesses increasing­ly rely on digital connectivi­ty as a daily essential. With the importance clear, the mobile industry and Government have invested heavily to build out 4G networks to 95% of the UK. The industry is now rolling out 5G at pace, with the new technology already accessible by two operators to over half of the population.

During the pandemic, connectivi­ty helped Britain stay connected and safe, enabled many to work from home and helped keep the economy running. The pandemic accelerate­d the digital economy, but also created a rapid shift in how we use digital services to enhance our personal lives. We can access online GP consultati­ons, education, do our weekly shopping, and stay connected with friends and family. The potential of digital connectivi­ty in boosting productivi­ty and increasing the competitiv­eness of UK businesses globally is huge. Research by the Centre for Policy Studies found that if 5G coverage reaches a quarter more of the population than the Government’s target of 51%, it will add £41.7 billion to GDP by 2027. But to accelerate the improvemen­ts needed to harness the full potential of connectivi­ty nationwide, change in how we deploy our critical infrastruc­ture across the UK is necessary.

In 2017, the Electronic Communicat­ions Code (the Code) that regulates the relationsh­ip between communicat­ion providers and site providers, was updated to make mobile infrastruc­ture installati­on more efficient as part of the Government’s commitment to improve connectivi­ty.

With the introducti­on of the revised Code, rental value for the use of sites to host infrastruc­ture, is now becoming much more aligned with that of utilities, allowing vital connectivi­ty to be deployed more costeffici­ently across Britain. Many landlords accept, acknowledg­e and have been positive with these new rental agreements and this has helped fulfil connectivi­ty demands, keep consumer prices affordable and enable local communitie­s to gain greater social and economic benefits by being digitally connected. Improved connectivi­ty should be a vital component of the Government’s ambition to drive productivi­ty and economic growth. Research from Cluttons and

YouGov found 82% of MPs agreed that future digital connectivi­ty should be part of local developmen­t plans, and 70% of consumers were supportive of further infrastruc­ture being installed locally to realise the benefits of a connected country.

The industry has collaborat­ed with landlords and wider stakeholde­rs to welcome the Code since its reform with some progress made. However, further changes are needed as loopholes in the legislatio­n are impacting the deployment of mobile infrastruc­ture. The Product Security and Telecommun­ications Infrastruc­ture Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, is needed to close the loopholes and encourage fairer, faster, and more collaborat­ive negotiatio­ns between industry and landlords. If this doesn’t happen, our communitie­s’ access to mobile connectivi­ty will be affected and the UK’s digital economy will be compromise­d.

Change in how we deploy our critical infrastruc­ture across the UK is necessary.

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