Ronan Dunne, O2 UK’s former CEO, urged the country’s government to shake up regulation in digital infrastructure, warning that a more radical overhaul will be required in the race towards 5G networks.
Dunne, who is today scheduled to take up a new role as president of US operator Verizon Wireless, told the Financial Times that the UK must consider a different approach in implementing fixed and mobile networks that will be used for future technologies, such as driverless cars and smart cities.
He said the country was “using old industrial policy” to regulate and build for the future, and the UK could end up missing out on innovation due to “analogue” thinking.
And while the UK’s Digital Economy Bill, which is going through the motions among policy makers, proposes changes to speed up installation of new masts and cables, Dunne believes more needs to be done to support future communications, including 5G.
He said 5G technology could require up to 500,000 small mobile masts to support the level of connectivity in London alone.
“It’s impossible to imagine a system that currently exists that could process 500,000 applications – never mind adopting a completely different approach to delivering the next generation of technology,” he said.
In the interview, Dunne, who left O2 after almost a decade following the failed merger with smaller rival 3 UK, also dismissed the ongoing debate in the UK about fibre and copper broadband networks, insisting there should be a bigger drive in developing wireless solutions.
He warned that the US, his new working base, could further leave the UK behind, because of its more advanced approach to network development.
“My sense is that there’s a more forward looking context for the delivery of regulation and policy there, which is adopting the notion of a digitally-led mobile first.”