The rollout of next-generation 5G networks in London could be under threat due to a lack of preparation by local authorities, a new report has warned.
While major mobile networks have launched 5G in the capital and other major UK cities, London boroughs remained “far from ready” to support the new technology, it warned.
Freedom of Information data obtained by Tech London Advocates revealed that all but two of London’s 33 boroughs have no specific strategy for enabling the telecoms rollout.
The data, seen by City A.M., found that not a single borough had allocated any budget to implementing 5G this year, while most had no staff responsible for the technology.
While the rollout is primarily the responsibility of mobile operators, local authorities will play a key role in enabling the process through policies including giving infrastructure providers such as Arqiva access to public street furniture.
Not a single London borough could confirm an anticipated date for full coverage in its area, but the City of London predicted it will take at least three years to get blanket 5G reception in the Square Mile.
“Network operators have been advertising 5G-enabled handsets for some time. However, as these results show, London is far from ready for widespread connectivity,” said Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates.
“The Greater London Authority must align all the boroughs under the same policy, proactively encouraging investment from network operators and fostering collaboration between them, businesses and land owners.”
He added: “Otherwise, London risks being one of the worst cities in the UK for 5G coverage – an unacceptable scenario when the capital’s global future is already under question.”
The report highlighted the contrast between the UK’s nascent 5G network and those launched in the US and China, adding that a delayed rollout could harm London and the wider country’s status as a global tech leader.
Verizon has made 5G services available in 15 US cities, with plans for access in 30 more by the end of the year. Meanwhile, China’s three largest telecoms providers launched have launched the network in 50 cities as part of a coordinated move.
Andrew Campling, director at 419 Consulting, said: “Capitalising on the 5G opportunity is crucial for London to cement its place as a global technology hub.
“However, to avoid deterring network operators from investing, it must find a way to navigate the bureaucratic obstacles holding back the installation of 5G infrastructure.”