Report: Arqiva boss warns that UK is falling behind with 5G

cell phone tower

The CEO of telecoms mast owner Arqiva warned that the UK risks being one of the laggards in the race to build 5G networks because mobile network operators (MNOs) do not make a sufficient return on costly network investments.

Simon Beresford-Wylie told the Telegraph that policy changes were required to ensure MNOs were able to spend the billions that were required to build new 5G networks from around 2020.

The comments from Beresford-Wylie certainly reflect the feelings of MNOs all over Europe and not just in the UK. Operators believe that competition is driving down prices to a level that makes network investments more difficult to fund.

This competitive pressure was the rationale behind proposed mergers such as that of Three UK with O2 UK. The European Commission eventually blocked that merger because it feared it would be bad for consumers.

However, Beresford-Wylie was critical of the stance also taken by UK regulator Ofcom towards this merger, saying: “If you look at the markets where there are quality networks, they are three operator markets.”

Vodafone UK’s head of mobile networks, Kye Prigg, also recently highlighted the difficulties of operating and planning networks. In an interview with FierceWireless:Europe, he pointed to the ongoing struggle with site acquisition and said reforms to ease access to publicly owned land would be extremely useful.

He added that Vodafone UK is also hoping to see a reform in the law “so we can increase the height of antennas in order to improve coverage and performance for our customers.”

A recent study carried out on behalf of the European Commission (EC) by InterDigital Europe, Real Wireless, Tech4i2 and Trinity College Dublin forecasts that total benefits from 5G deployment in Europe will reach €113.1 billion ($126 billion) annually from 2025 -- about five years after the first launches of the next-generation networks are expected.

For more:
- see this Telegraph article

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Study: 5G to benefit Europe to tune of €113B a year by 2025
Vodafone UK’s Prigg on 5G, site acquisitions and the future of 2G networks