BT said this initiative will speed up the deployment of 4G and 5G in city centers
U.K. telecommunications group BT has called for an end to exclusive concessions agreements governing access to council-owned street furniture, in a bid to speed up the delivery of 4G and 5G services and boost mobile coverage in city centres.
Many local authorities currently operate a concession model, which grants a single mobile operator or infrastructure provider exclusive access to council-owned street furniture — such as lamp posts and CCTV columns to locate mobile network equipment.
Under the concessions model, other mobile operators who wish to access the same physical infrastructure to locate their small cells equipment need to pay a wholesale charge to the provider that has an exclusive agreement in place with the local authority.
BT, which currently operates street furniture concessions in Glasgow, Cardiff, Brighton, Plymouth, Carlisle, Newcastle/Gateshead, Nottingham, Gloucester and Leicester, is proposing to end its exclusive agreements to encourage other local authorities and the wider industry to adopt an alternative ‘open access’ model.
The carrier said that this open access scheme would allow all carriers to access street furniture by paying a low-cost flat fee to the local authority.
BT said that it will be holding a workshop with local authorities and mobile network operators in April to explain the benefits of the open access approach and discuss options to implement this initiative. The event will be hosted in Birmingham by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Mobile UK.
BT said that this initiative will encourage mobile operators to invest in improving mobile coverage, capacity and speeds in towns and cities across the UK through the deployment of small cells technology.
“While the concessions model made sense in the early 2010’s when it first came into common use, the market and regulatory landscape have changed and it’s become clear that exclusivity agreements act as a barrier to further 4G and 5G investments,” said Paul Ceely, director of network strategy at BT Group. “We are leading the way by handing back exclusivity in nine key areas.
“The UK needs an alternative approach which sees industry and local authorities working together to share these street sites in an open and collaborative way,” he went on. “This will create the right environment for long-term investment and innovation in future mobile networks. We believe Open Access will be critical in ensuring the UK has the best mobile infrastructure in place to maintain its position as one of the world’s leading digital economies.”
BT’s mobile arm, EE, announced plans to launch 5G sites in 16 U.K. cities in 2019. The carrier said 5G services will be initially available in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.
EE said that it is currently deploying 5G sites in the busiest parts of these six cities, including Hyde Park in London, Manchester Arena, Belfast City Airport, the Welsh Assembly, Edinburgh Waverly train station and Birmingham’s Bullring.
EE will also be launching 5G in certain areas of Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol during 2019.