The UK is suffering from digital deserts that make its 4G network worse than Romania and Peru, according to a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).
It says the government needs to take immediate action so that the UK is 5G ready and developments, such as increased use of connected vehicles, are not hindered by the poor network.
The report, called Connected Future, says that mobile connectivity is now a necessity and the government must ensure that basic services are available.
The report calls for a digital champion, backed by a cabinet minister, to spearhead the change, which it says needs to be implemented by 2025.
It found Britain is 54th in the world for 4G, with the typical user only accessing 4G 53% of the time. It says there are too many “digital deserts”.
In particular, the NIC report says that key rail routes and major roads need to be 5G ready by 2025 and the government needs to start planning this now. It adds that the government needs to make sure the long-term operational needs of connected vehicles and the connectivity needs of passengers are met.
“5G is the future – ultra-fast and ultra-reliable, it has the potential to change our lives and our economy in ways we cannot even imagine today. But the UK is currently languishing in the digital slow lane,” said NIC chair Lord Adonis.
“Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time. Our 4G network is worse than Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru. Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.
“5G offers us a chance to start again and get ahead. If government acts now we can ensure our major transport networks and urban centres are 5G ready in time to give British industry every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications.
“But none of this will matter unless we bring our mobile network up to speed. The existing system does not provide the level of coverage we will need in our connected future. We need a new universal service obligation which ensures that the mobile essentials – like text, talk and data – are available to us wherever we need them.
“From connected vehicles to the Internet of Things, 5G will support a whole new way of communicating and doing business. The UK must not be left behind.”