5G technology ready to be deployed in London but how long until it reaches rural areas?

The UK’s digital minister Margot James has raised concerns about attitudes towards mobile network masts — especially in rural areas. She stated that we need to “crack the planning issue” if we want to take advantage of 5G and its potential to boost productivity.

It was announced in April that O2 and Arqiva will deploy up to 300 small cells across London during the summer of 2018. According to Ofcom however, 8 of 10 people living in rural areas still don’t even have access to 4G networks.

Whilst 5G promises to bring a wealth of advantages, there are some key disadvantages with the technology as it stands. 5G will be reliant upon millimeter waves, which use higher frequencies than regular radio waves. The benefit of this is that there is much more ‘space’ within this spectrum; our radio frequencies have become overcrowded. But, MM waves are far more easily disrupted; they can’t travel through buildings very easily.

One way to build a reliable MM wave network is to deploy lots and lots of ‘small cells’ on top of buildings and lamp posts. But with this comes with inherent planning issues and problems determining which mobile operators will use the infrastructure. This is not to mention public panic about the safety of small cell technology. A man in Gateshead scaled a lamppost to try to remove a ‘5g antenna’ after reading a viral post of Facebook claiming that they cause cancer!

It’s still unclear exactly how long it will take to deploy necessary 5G infrastructure across the whole of the UK. It’s likely however that there will be a lot of resistance that will need to be overcome before the whole country is able to benefit from 5G technology.

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