Economic viability of UK 5G networks questioned

Stephen Lerner, general counsel & regulatory affairs director at Three, has outlined the “various forces are limiting the economic viability of 5G at an industry level”.

In a LinkedIn blog post, Lerner explained that adequately addressing four areas – concerning spectrum, site upgrades, fibre and suppliers – will be “crucial to the reality of nationwide 5G”.

Ahead of Ofcom’s upcoming 5G spectrum auction, Lerner outlined the issues he sees with the auction structure, including his view that “the other operators want to side-line Three”. Issues around site upgrades include “red-tape in granting permissions” that are “causing unnecessary delays to 5G rollouts”. Those issues could be mitigated, he explained, should the recent rural planning proposals be adopted.

The third issue, access to fibre infrastructure, could be tackled through reducing dependence on Openreach, as well as other measures to support fibre investment

Lastly, the recently announced restrictions on telecoms providers using high risk vendors in 5G networks “will increase the amount of investment operators need to put into delivering the 5G connectivity that the UK needs”.

Lerner added, “Despite being one of the first to commercially launch 3G, the UK was late to the party in rolling out 4G, far behind the US amongst others. We have so much potential, but without the right regulatory enablers, the UK risks repeating history; falling further behind leading nations.”

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