Local authorities call for a better national 5G strategy

5 Aug 2020

Image: © Claudia Nass/Stock.adobe.com

A new report is calling for stronger alignment in 5G strategy at both local and national levels if Ireland is to capitalise on this telecoms tech.

A national working group on 5G is “urgently” needed if Ireland is to take advantage of the economic opportunities associated with next-generation networks, according to a new report.

Dublin City Council, Sligo County Council and Science Foundation Ireland’s Connect research centre have published a new discussion document, ‘5G and Future Connectivity: An Emerging Framework for Irish Cities and Towns’, which warns that the absence of a roadmap for national connectivity risks eroding Ireland’s economic competitiveness.

The document calls for the establishment of a national working group to address this, drawing on findings from an online survey of telecoms vendors, mobile operators and local authority broadband officers. It makes a number of recommendations calling for stronger alignment in 5G strategy at both local and national levels.

Taking advantage of the economic opportunity

The proposed national working group would aim to harness the economic opportunity presented to Ireland through 5G, with a five-year roadmap that could remove barriers to the roll-out of next-generation communication networks.

Dr Brendan Jennings, interim director of Connect, said: “The economic opportunity associated with 5G and next-generation networks is well documented: the global impact in goods and services is expected to reach $12trn by 2035. A much more coordinated approach is needed if all regions in Ireland are to capitalise on this.”

Jennings said that the economic difficulties caused by Covid-19 make this need “all the more urgent”.

The document outlines how a national working group could shape a shared vision for connectivity in Ireland. This would include key stakeholders such as Government departments, local authorities, mobile operators, equipment vendors, the research community, and bodies such as Ibec, ESB Networks, ComReg and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The role of local authorities

James Cudden, smart city lead at Dublin City Council, said: “Local authorities, in particular, will play a vital role in Ireland’s path to 5G, so collaboration and engagement between councils and mobile operators will be essential to facilitate a sustainable roll-out.

“For instance, the challenge of accessing power in an affordable manner is a make or break issue for the deployment of 5G. There needs to be continuous communication with ESB via the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to resolve unmetered power issues for the installation of small cells on unmetered supply.”

Cudden said that there is also a need to build a database of assets such as street furniture, ducting and streetlights, along with an assessment of their suitability for use in 5G deployments. Other issues also need to be addressed, he said, such as the issuing of licences for delivery of new mobile sites or equipment installs such as small cells.

Nigel Carter, digital innovation lead at Sligo County Council, added that it is “critically important” that safety monitoring continues and that the latest scientific guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and EPA is communicated clearly.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic