We spoke to Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK, about why helping enable mobile infrastructure is crucial for the UK’s future, from bridging the digital divide to building a greener country
1. Can you introduce yourself and Mobile UK?
Hi there, my name is Gareth Elliott. I am Head of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK, the trade body representing the UK’s four main mobile network operators, EE, Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone.
The role of Mobile UK is to act as a single voice for our members and the wider mobile industry and work with Governments at a national and local level to ensure that the policy and regulatory environment acts as an enabler to mobile infrastructure deployment.
2. What does the term Connected Britain mean to you?
Connected Britain signifies our mission to connect people, businesses and increasingly the internet of things. Connectivity is critical to the nation, and it has proved even more so during the pandemic and will be an essential element for the nation’s economic recovery.
Connectivity brings people and businesses together, creating connections and improving business efficiencies, but it will also help us in other ways. Connected societies are also able to achieve more. In 2021 the UK will be hosting COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference, and connectivity will be vital in our ability to mitigate climate change. Connected devices offer a greater chance to monitor and understand the issue while also providing new ways to reduce carbon usage and move us quicker to net zero.
Mobile networks are a facilitator to achieving many of our goals and ambitions and mitigating climate change. Therefore, it is important that Mobile companies can build and deploy their networks as quickly as possible so that we can meet these challenges.
3. How is digital infrastructure helping to build a more connected society?
A connected society means many things but what is central is the mobile networks operated by Mobile UK’s members.
Mobile companies are investing billions every year to expand and enhance those networks, and it is currently rolling out next-generation 5G networks. In addition, Mobile companies signed a joint £1 billion agreement with the UK Government to extend 4G mobile broadband to 95% of the UK’s landmass in addition to ongoing upgrades and enhancements to the existing networks.
4. Can you tell us more about Mobile UK’s #5GCheckTheFacts campaign?
The #5GCheckTheFacts campaign was designed to fill a vacuum of information on 5G and change the narrative. At the height of the pandemic, 160+ arson attacks on mobile infrastructure and physical and verbal attacks on staff were recorded.
As part of the campaign, a series of information packs and case study mini packs have been published that explore the benefits of 5G and provide answers to queries and questions about health. Recently, the official #5GCheckTheFacts campaign video was released. Further, a new and upcoming series of influencer videos are in production to enhance the campaign and spread knowledge about 5G.
Mobile UK has also offered a steady hand in supporting local authorities and councils to answer 5G related questions from residents by issuing a local authority toolkit nationwide. This pack helps explain this exciting new technology to constituents and assist in alleviating concerns based on misinformed opinions and myths.
5. What are the biggest barriers to delivering next-generation connectivity in the UK?
One of the biggest barriers to delivering next-generation connectivity is the planning system. Across the UK, many variations across nations make it more difficult to deploy networks in some than in others. In addition, our physical infrastructure also attracts opposition which is not helped by misinformation and conspiracy theories.
It is important that in building the critical infrastructure that provides the connectivity that underpins our daily lives, the industry can do so easily, quickly and cost-effectively. Delays in the planning process add uncertainty, cost and delays, ultimately increasing the time the industry can deploy its networks and deny people and businesses vital connectivity.
6. What are you most looking forward to about Connected Britain?
Connected Britain provides a fantastic opportunity for Mobile UK to outline the role of the industry in providing world-class connectivity and highlight solutions to barriers, and provide education and information on the benefits of this exciting technology.
If you want to learn more from Gareth about the importance of mobile infrastructure to the future of the UK, he will be speaking on Day 1 of the upcoming Connected Britain conference on a panel called ‘How is digital infrastructure helping to build a more connected society?’
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