Broadband advisory body suggests planning reform for FTTH and 5G deployment

UK government urged to create cross-departmental body to ease telecoms infrastructure deployment The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), the UK government’s advisory body on broadband, has published a report which urges the UK to lower barriers to telecoms infrastructure deployment. The organisation said that the deployment of telecoms networks is hindered by the variety of approaches to planning regulations by local authorities.

For example, permit schemes for street works are implemented regionally for some authorities, and locally for others. BLG identified 25 permit schemes operating across more than 90 local authorities that the telecoms operators must manage – with the number pf permit schemes still increasing. Even within those permit schemes, there are inconsistencies in the way guidance is interpreted and BLG said there was a desire from both telecoms operators and local authorities for a more uniform approach.

There are also a number of other regulations that operators have to comply with to be able to block, dig and reinstate roads. These issues are resulting in a lack of efficiency which have led to delays in getting businesses and households connected to better broadband. BSG said that practical steps could be taken by government, local authorities and operators to create a uniform approach to planning and ultimately speed up the roll-out of broadband.

In order to do so, the company alongside Analysis Mason has set out a number of recommendations. This includes a Department for Transport review of legislation and statutory guidance so that there can be a more uniform national approach to managing road networks and street works. This will also help it to consider whether additional mandatory requirements and guidance are necessary to help operators and authorities to better manage large-scale network deployments.

It has also called for reviews of other areas, and has suggested a cross-departmental unit within government should be set up to break down barriers to broadband network deployment. BSG said that the government should work with industry to develop a fully-fledged digital communications infrastructure strategy, and it believes that government and local authorities should ensure there is a single point of contact for telecoms operators within each local authority. Finally, it believes that further research needs to be carried out to understand some authorities’ uncertainty associated with new deployment techniques such as micro-trenching.

The advisory body said that tackling these issues now is crucial to ensure the deployment of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and 5G infrastructure across the UK goes smoothly. Meanwhile, the 5G Infrastructure Association (5G-IA) has unveiled a ‘European 5G Pan-European Trials Roadmap’. The organisation outlined four main pillars of the roadmap as private trials, vertical pilots, UEFA EURO 2020 and trials cities for 5G.

However, the organisation did not specify any dates or milestones for this roadmap.

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