The UK was urged by 3 UK to take action around rural policy to ensure underserved areas of the country are better connected by Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) 5G, which the operator claimed could be installed for half the cost of fixed-line technology.

Research conducted by 3 along with analyst company CCS Insight found rural customers could be connected to 5G broadband faster and at a lower cost,if the government backed FWA, which can deliver speeds “comparable to fibre technology”.

The operator wants the government to implement reforms to the Electronic Communications Code to provide greater rights to MNOs and make it easier to rollout networks, in addition to the Permitted Development Rights regime, which limits the ability to build and upgrade infrastructure for 4G and 5G.

Current rules often mean operators get embroiled in long and costly legal battles with site providers, which effectively results in a slower 5G rollout.

In a report, the companies assert the government’s plans to connect 85 per cent of UK premises to gigabit broadband by 2025 could be hindered by a reliance on fixed technology.

The credible alternative would be FWA 5G, which 3 and CCS Insight calculate could be installed for half the cost of full fibre and “still provide a comparable level of connectivity”.

David Hennessy, CTO at 3 UK and Ireland, said gigabit-speed internet is critical for the UK’s long-term prosperity, but the government was “too focussed on investment in one type of technology, fixed line”.

“It’s time for a greater consideration of a wider pool of technology, particularly FWA, to help those in rural areas have access to faster internet and ultimately help reduce the digital divide,” he added.

The operator recently outlined plans to invest in 2,500 new 5G sites in the coming years.