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Welsh Government urged to unite to help boost 5G

Paul Lipscombe
January 28, 2019

Operators have weighed in to advise the best way to build a 5G network in Wales

The National Assembly for Wales has encouraged the Welsh Government to work with mobile network operators or risk Wales being left behind in the rollout of 5G.

The National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee recommended the action after reviewing the Welsh Government’s Mobile Action Plan earlier this month.

Despite 4G coverage improving in Wales, the Committee found that this was because of investment from the mobile networks rather than efforts by the Welsh Government.

With the UK’s first commercial rollout of 5G expected this year, the Committee believes a collaborative approach would tackle the challenges faced by the technology and establish solutions to any problems.

The network operators have called for changes to planning regulations on the height and location of new masts, with EE highlighting challenges relating to these.

A spokesperson from EE told the Committee: “If you want to be able to share infrastructure, it needs to be large enough to accommodate the equipment for multiple operators. If, broadly, we are restricted to 15-metre-high masts in Wales under permitted development rights, it makes that incredibly difficult.”

Although the Welsh Government is planning to allow 25-metre-high masts in non-protected areas of Wales, the Committee recommends they should be at least 30 metres high and pointed to a more lenient planning regime in England.

Welsh Conservative Assembly member and chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee Russell George AM warns that Wales risks falling behind the rest of the UK.

“The advent of 5G promises to further integrate technology into our lives through smart devices such as autonomous cars. It is critical, therefore, that Wales is not left behind in this new era,” he said.

“But while the country as a whole prepares for the next generation of mobile connectivity, there are still parts of Wales with no connection at all. That simply isn’t good enough, and it is crucial these ‘not spots’ are covered, particularly in remote, rural areas.

“We are therefore urging ministers to engage with the network operators, establish the challenges ahead and how to best to tackle them face-on.”

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