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Three UK calls for policy reform to connect rural areas to 5G WiFi

Saf Malik
July 26, 2021

Significant infrastructure changes needed before 2025 according to new report with CCS Insight

Three UK has called for a policy reform to better connect rural areas to 5G WiFi after new research with CCS Insight was published today.

The report is titled “5G Fixed Wireless Access Can Help the UK Bridge its Digital Divide and Achieve Gigabit Aspirations” and puts the Government’s gigabit plans under the microscope.

Plans are for 85 per cent of UK premises to have access to gigabit broadband by 2025, but currently, only 20 per cent of rural areas are able to access ultrafast WiFi.

Significant infrastructure changes are needed before 2025 according to the report, costing around £4,000 per location in harder to reach areas.

Three UK and CCS have calculated a credible alternative and say that FWA could be installed for half the cost of full-fibre and still provide a comparable level of connectivity.

However, policy reforms are vital to enabling wider access to FWA, particularly to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which provides greater rights to MNOs, intended to make it easier and more affordable to rollout networks.

Currently, it hinders, rather than enables a quicker rollout of 5G due to a lack of clarity surrounding our ability to exercise our rights under the Code. This means that often, Operators get embroiled in long and costly legal battles with site providers to try to exercise those rights including our ability to renegotiate a new agreement under new Code rates.

CCS Insight director of consumer and connectivity Kester Mann said:  “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.

“The Government’s ambition to reach at least 85 per cent 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.”

Three UK chief technology officer David Hennessy added: “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.

“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.”

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