5G is being turned on in cities across the country – but fears have been raised that rural areas are being left behind.
Building on existing trials, EE will switch on 5G in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester by mid-2019, it has announced.
By the end of 2019, another 10 cities will get EE networks which could transmit data at speeds faster than 10 gigabits per second. Other UK networks are also trialling 5G to accelerate their rollout next year, offering higher speeds and greater reliability.
But the CLA has raised concerns that rural areas are at risk of being side-lined by plans to rollout 5G before they even have fast and reliable 4G coverage.
Earlier this summer the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport proposed mandatory full fibre broadband for all new build homes and a new priority to connect hard-to-reach rural areas in a national, long-term strategy for UK telecommunications. The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review proposed changes that are needed to give the majority of the population access to 5G, connect 15 million premises to full fibre broadband by 2025, and provide full fibre broadband coverage across all of the UK by 2033.
CLA South East represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.
Regional Director Robin Edwards said: “The future of the rural economy depends on fast, affordable and reliable connections. However, we need to see fully developed details from the Government as to why the full fibre broadband rollout should take 15 years to complete and where the money is coming from.
“Many rural areas fall short of a 4G service due to the inability of mobile network operators to resolve poor signal and mobile not-spots. Rural business must not be side-lined. It is vital that 4G coverage is put in place first because a future 5G service relies on 4G infrastructure.”
Last month a cross-party group of MPs recommended the introduction of a single rural mobile phone network to help speed up delivery of 4G to the countryside. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business published a report following its inquiry into 4G in rural areas, calling for the ability for mobile phone users to roam between network providers in rural areas, to help allow more people to make good quality calls and access data.
Mr Edwards added: “For too long people living and working in the countryside have been disadvantaged by poor mobile coverage, putting up with detrimental impacts to their businesses as well as home life.
“The recommendations in the APPG’s report set out a positive and sensible approach towards ending digital discrimination against people who live and work in the countryside. We urge the network operators to work with Government and Ofcom now to identify how rural roaming could work best and be delivered without delay.”