UK will use bus shelters, street lamps and traffic lights to expand 5G coverage

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UK will use traffic lights to expand 5G coverage
Making the 5G rollout as easy as possible.
Photo: Mike Carney CC

The U.K. could get a major 5G coverage boost from bus shelters, street lamps, CCTV poles, and traffic signals. The government is exploring novel ways to integrate 5G radio equipment in existing street furniture in an effort to “make it simpler and quicker for mobile companies” to expand the reach of 5G.

Expanding 5G coverage isn’t easy

5G has been available in the U.K. for some time now, and almost all mobile operators are working hard to make coverage available in more towns and cities. However, the access rights, planning permission, and permits required to install new 5G hardware make its expansion expensive and difficult.

“It’s not that straightforward,” Ericsson CEO Katherine Ainley told Verdict last month. “It’s an industry-wide and government-wide issue to work together to get this network out. Because the sum of getting 5G out faster is the U.K. and Ireland gets put in a better position on the global stage.”

Now, the government is looking beyond traditional cell towers and equipment.

UK will put 5G in street lights, traffic signals

“Mobile network operators will get easier access to lampposts, bus shelters and other street furniture to speed up the roll out of next-generation, ultrafast 5G technology under a new government trial,” announced Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman on Thursday.

“A £4 million competition launched today will explore ways to make it simpler and quicker for mobile companies to use publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure – such as CCTV poles and traffic signals – to host 5G radio equipment.”

Using street furniture and buildings to host 5G equipment is cheaper, and more visually appealing than traditional phone masts, Warman added. So, the government is making it easier for local councils and mobile operators to work together to find suitable locations for 5G radios.

Giving the UK speedy connectivity

“The Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) project is the latest in a number of measures announced by the government to level up the UK by busting the barriers holding back the roll out of lightning-fast digital connectivity,” the announcement added.

Other parts of this effort include a trial for running fiber broadband cables through drinking water pipes, and giving internet firms access to more than a million kilometers of underground utility ducts — including those used for electricity, gas, and sewage — to boost the rollout of fiber connectivity.