LIVE FROM 5G REALISED, LONDON: UK operators revealed they were still battling a number of issues in their 5G deployments, highlighting problems with the physical infrastructure, restrictive planning rules and struggles defining the ultimate business case.

All four operators, EE owner BT; 3 UK; and the local units of Vodafone and Telefonica, outlined the various challenges they face with rollout of new network technology, with collaboration coming through as one of the primary solutions.

Despite the issues all said they expected to meet their previously revealed timelines for 5G launches.

BT CTIO Howard Watson (pictured, far right) said: “The challenge in the UK is how do we get national policies working at a local level? We have a highly decentralised set of local governments, when it comes to planning and infrastructure that is a massive barrier.”

Representatives from the other three companies also pointed to issues around planning regulations, which have been regularly cited as preventing rapid network rollout in the country.

Hard line
Graham Baxter, COO of 3 (pictured, second from left), said operators need to be “ruthless in every single way” around costs, urging regulatory changes to reduce fees for connecting rural areas through initiatives such as allowing larger masts and infrastructure sharing.

Vodafone UK chief network officer Andrea Dona (pictured, far left) added elsewhere in Europe masts could be built which are 15 metres higher than in the UK. This, he added, was a barrier to providing affordable coverage to many areas.

Dona added operators still needed to define how they would sell 5G and which use cases would provide enough revenue to claw back the huge deployment costs.

Telefonica UK CTO Brandan O’Reilly (pictured, second from right) said without collaborating with authorities on planning rules “you’re using analogue laws to deliver a digital future”.

He added the industry also needed to work together to help rollout, while there was also a need to collaborate with industry to define the right use cases.