Rural areas are at risk of being side-lined by plans to rollout 5G before they even have fast and reliable 4G coverage, according to the CLA.
The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, has welcomed fresh Government plans to increase connectivity in the countryside, but warned that rural economic growth is being put at risk due to the failure to recognise that 4G for all must be achieved before rolling out 5G services.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says mandatory full fibre broadband for all new build homes and a new priority to connect hard-to-reach rural areas are key measures proposed in a national, long-term strategy for UK telecommunications.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review proposes 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 Senior Rural Business Adviser Dr Charles Trotman said:
“We welcome the Government’s intention to connect hard-to-reach rural areas. 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.
“We support the Government ambition to deliver mobile coverage to 95% of UK geographic landmass by the end of 2022. One of the ways to do this is to hold to account mobile phone operators to ensure they invest in a better connected countryside. By engaging all of the industry in the process and ensuring landowners’ rights are fairly balanced, we can finally ensure 4G for all.”