New Telecoms Report: Wireless Infrastructure Strategy at Risk

Government ambitions for widespread adoption of 5G are at risk of being missed if actions outlined in the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy (WIS), which marked its first anniversary on 11 April, are not followed through.

As one of the UK’s key sectors, where every £1 invested by the operators generates around £5 in the wider economy, a new report: ‘Rebalancing Act: Unlocking the Potential of the UK's Mobile Industry’, identifies that despite ongoing industry investment in infrastructure at around £2bn per annum, urgent change in the investment environment is required if targets are to be met.

The report prepared by White Hawk Green and commissioned by Mobile UK, highlights a £25 billion investment gap, integral to the roll out of advanced 5G Stand Alone networks. If this investment gap is not plugged the UK will struggle to reap the benefit of widespread adoption of 5G in generating £159 billion in productivity by 2035 (as detailed in the WIS).

Findings demonstrate that crucial infrastructure upgrades are too reliant on an under-resourced planning system. This, alongside a growing social demand on the industry, unfunded by the public purse, to help vulnerable people and provide social tariffs, is creating an imbalance that further impairs the investability of the sector.

Mobile technology has transformed lives globally and is integral to every aspect of life. Telecoms is recognised by the Government as one of the UK’s 13 Critical National Infrastructures.

“It’s clear the industry is delivering strong value through the generation of £5 return to the wider economy for every £1 invested by the operators, and so enabling a positive investment environment for the sector must be the clear priority of government,” said Hamish MacLeod, CEO of Mobile UK.

“As a country we are not making enough progress to meet the objectives of the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy which acknowledges the power of mobile technology and the ambition to be a leader in 5G.

“Reductions in spectrum licence fees, reforming traffic management regulations and Business Rate holidays for new mobile infrastructure would incentivise investment. In addition, adequately funding the planning system and appointing digital champions in local authorities would help streamline network rollout and get the UK back on track to achieve its targets.”

Key challenges identified:

  • Investment gap: Private capital currently funds the mobile sector almost entirely. However, stagnant revenues, cost pressures, and the need for continuous infrastructure upgrades are hindering investment potential.
  • Policy and regulation: Regulatory burdens and economic pressures are impacting mobile network operators (MNO) profitability, further constraining investment.

The report makes four recommendations:

  • At a minimum, follow through on policies and actions outlined in the Wireless Infrastructure
  • Explore further policy actions designed to remove barriers to network rollout.
  • Implement fiscal measures that will have a direct and immediate impact on improving Mobile Network Operator (MNO) investment
  • Consider further actions that can be taken to support private capital being deployed in the UK by mobile operators.

The full report can be explored HERE.


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