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UK street lamps and bus shelters to boost 5G rollout in £4 million trial

The government is looking to create digital asset management platforms to allow councils to easily share infrastructure data with network operators

Mobile network operators in the UK are set to get easier access to lamposts, bus shelters, and other street furniture to speed up the rollout of 5G technology as part of a new £4 million government trial that looks to develop digital asset management platforms.

Forming part of the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) project, the competition will explore ways to make it simpler and quicker for mobile companies to use publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure, like CCTV poles and traffic signals, to host 5G radio equipment.

Although the government stated that street furniture and buildings can be used to host 5G network equipment more cheaply, quickly, and with less visual impact compared with traditional phone masts, it has also acknowledged that network operators often find it difficult to get the required information to verify a structure is suitable, like its location or physical dimensions, proximity to the street, or access to a power source.

To deal with this, the government said it will invest in piloting the latest innovations in digital asset management platforms, to help local councils share data more easily with network operators.

“The lampposts lining our streets have huge potential to accelerate the roll out of 5G and reduce the need to build new masts, but right now getting access to this infrastructure can be tricky,” said digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman. “That’s why we are investing millions to help local councils and mobile companies work together more effectively to bring people the incredible benefits of faster connectivity as we level up the UK.”

Local and regional authorities have been asked to work with network operators to come up with joint proposals for the competition that show how they would use the funding to improve communication. Once awarded, the government has said it aims to take the locally tested platforms nationwide.

Authorities and operators have until 18 November to submit their ideas.

In January, the government invested £28 million in nine nationwide projects to trial the innovative use of 5G networks. This included trialling 5G-powered cargo ports, improving visitor experiences at the O2 Arena, and trialling the use of driverless taxis and smart parking management at the MK Dons stadium in Milton Keynes. The DCMS was set to provide £15.2 million to be shared across nine projects while the remaining £13.1 million came from project partners.

The latest competition, and wider DCIA project, is funded by the Shared Outcomes Fund, which received £200 million in its most recent spending round to test innovative public sector projects.

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