National Infrastructure Commission Reveals Britain is 54th In Global 4G Coverage (USA 10th)

National Infrastructure Commission Reveals Britain is 54th In Global 4G Coverage (USA 10th)

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the British agency in charge of advising the government on matters of infrastructure such as the energy market and transportation, has released their report on mobile connectivity. In March of 2016, the Commission was tasked with answering the following question:

What does the UK need to do to become a world leader in 5G deployment and to ensure the UK can take advantage of 5G applications?

Their report seeks to answer this question, but it also reveals some shocking truths about the state of mobile connectivity in the country.

“The Commission’s central finding is that mobile connectivity has become a necessity. The market has driven great advances since the advent of the mobile phone but government must now play an active role to ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel, and our roads, railways and city centres must be made 5G ready as quickly as possible.”

The report also found that:

  • 20% of urban premises and almost 80% of rural premises are not under adequate 4G coverage.
  • In rural areas, 3% of the population do not have any coverage outside their homes (complete not-spots).
  • Coverage on  road networks is poor even for voice coverage (2G).
  • 17% of A and B roads are in complete not-spots and an additional 42% have only partial coverage.

The NIC advised that the government must also ensure that the railway network sees improved connectivity, which it advised is provided via a trackside network. Don’t get too excited about huge jumps in your daily commute’s coverage any time soon though, as the NIC has stated that the Government should provide a plan by 2017 and the infrastructure be in place on main train routes and motorways by 2025.

5G is the future – ultra-fast, and ultra-reliable it has the potential to change our lives and our economy in ways we cannot even imagine today. But the UK is currently languishing in the digital slow lane. Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time. Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru.

Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce. 5G offers us a chance to start again and get ahead. If government acts now we can ensure our major transport networks and urban centres are 5G ready in time to give British industry every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications.

But none of this will matter unless we bring our mobile network up to speed. The existing system does not provide the level of coverage we will need in our connected future. We need a new universal service obligation which ensures that the mobile essentials – like text, talk and data – are available to us wherever we need them. From connected vehicles to the internet of things, 5G will support a whole new way of communicating and doing business. The UK must not be left behind.

Lord Adonis, Chair of the NIC

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You can download the full report from the NIC here (3.4MB PDF).

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