Vodafone and Three want more UK government help with 5G

Two UK telcos are urging the government to do more to push 5G along, especially in the areas of manufacturing and FWA, for the good of the country of course.

Vodafone sent out a press release titled ‘5G could provide £6.3 billion boost to UK manufacturing by 2030’, to promote a report called ‘Powering up manufacturing, levelling up Britain’. Any doubt that the whole exercise is essentially a lobbying campaign for government assistance was removed when it was revealed the report was written in partnership with political communications consultancy WPI Strategy.

“We are only beginning of the 5G journey, but through our work with Ford, we know it offers huge potential for the manufacturing sector and beyond,” said Anne Sheehan, Business Director at Vodafone. “To realise this potential, we need to all get behind it, from government and Ofcom creating the right policy and regulatory environment, through to businesses embracing the power of innovation, and of course us as network operators creating this network of the future.”

They got Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman to offer a canned quote, which featured the inevitable political talking point du jour. “The benefits of 5G for improving productivity, efficiency and safety in our manufacturing sector and beyond are clear, and Vodafone’s report is a ringing endorsement of how this revolutionary technology can help us build back better from the pandemic,” said Warman.

Three UK, meanwhile, is all about fixed wireless access and it, too, commissioned a report, this time in partnership with analyst form CCS Insight, to show what a great idea it is. The headline claim is that rural areas could be connected to proper broadband quicker and cheaper if the government would just do more to support FWA.

“Gigabit speed internet is critical for the UK’s long-term prosperity. However, the government is too focused on investing in one type of technology – fixed line,” said David Hennessy CTO of Three UK and Ireland. “Fixed line, or fibre, is significantly more difficult to roll out than FWA, which only needs a mobile signal to operate. It’s time for a greater consideration of a wider pool of technology, particularly FWA, to help those in rural areas have access to faster internet and ultimately help reduce the digital divide.”

“Although current broadband networks are sufficient for many of today’s needs, future demand for more data-intensive services will soon start to push their limits,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “The Government’s ambition to reach at least 85% of UK premises with gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 is an ambitious target. It will necessitate urgent policy reform to remove barriers to network deployment, an acceleration in build-out ambition from UK providers and an open approach to new connectivity solutions through a mix of technologies. 5G fixed wireless access can form a significant part of this.”

One more report is worthy of mention in this context. Sierra Wireless got IDC to look into the attitudes of European network strategy decision makers (NSDMs) to 5G. It found that lots of them aren’t too bothered about 5G, with a quarter of them having no 5G plans at all and almost half of organisations having thought about it and decided not to bother for now. Sierra thinks this is a mistake.

“European organisations that are unsure about adopting 5G must think bigger than just the smartphone,” said Marc Overton, SVP EMEA and Chief Solutions Officer at Sierra Wireless. “5G will enable a much broader ecosystem of communication devices and sensors to be utilised and will therefore reduce the total cost of ownership. Upgrading to 5G also means that networks can handle large volumes of data with much faster response times.”

All good points Marc, but hardly new ones. These recalcitrant NSDMs are presumably aware of all these theoretical benefits but remain unconvinced by 5G. Reports such as these indicate an increasing impatience from telcos and vendors to realise the promise of 5G and suggest it’s taking longer than they expected.

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