5G offers the UK a chance to “start again and get ahead”, according to a new government watchdog report, which tore into the current state of 4G in the country.

Published by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the report ranked the UK as 54th in the world for 4G coverage, notably behind less developed nations including Romania, Albania and Peru.

The NIC revealed a typical user was able to access the technology “barely half of the time”, and called for action to ensure the country does not face similar problems when it comes to 5G.

“Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts, and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible,” said Lord Adonis, chair of the NIC. “That isn’t just frustrating, it is holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.”

In a list of recommendations, the NIC urged the government and regulator Ofcom to develop a set of standards to determine a “mobile universal service obligation” for consumers, which should be implemented no later than 2025. It also called for the government to become something of “digital champion” by appointing a dedicated minister, ensuring the UK’s mobile connectivity is competitive worldwide.

When it comes to 5G, the watchdog called for immediate action to ensure the country is ready, with improvements required on key rail routes, major roads, and in towns and cities.

“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,” added Adonis.

The chair added: “5G offers us a change to start again and get ahead. If the 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.”