Nicola Sturgeon announces strategy to make Scotland ‘a 5G leader’

Written by Emily Woods on 26 August 2019 in News

The Scottish Government’s ‘Forging our Digital Future with 5G’ plan stated the technology could add £17bn to GDP by 2035

Image credit: Adobe Stock Images

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she wants to position Scotland “as a 5G leader and a forward-looking digital nation”, as she unveiled plans to work with industry, the regulator and public sector bodies to support rolling out the technology.

Released today, the Scottish Government’s ‘Forging our Digital Future with 5G’ plan stated the technology could add £17bn to GDP by 2035, “creating 160,000 jobs and increasing productivity by £1,600 a worker”.

5G, or “fifth generation wireless”, will offer faster mobile internet speeds, and enhanced connectivity that the government said could “transform transport, education, healthcare and agriculture”.

Unlike 4G, which requires large, high-powered cell towers to radiate signals over longer distances, 5G wireless signals can be transmitted via large numbers of small cell stations located in places like light poles or building roofs.

Sturgeon said there were “huge potential gains for the public sector” in the roll out of 5G.

“We believe this will be a catalyst for further public sector transformation, enabling high quality, user-focused and efficient services that are driven by data,” she said.

In the strategy document, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse said: “Significantly, 5G also has the potential to help sustain remote and rural areas, allowing all of Scotland's citizens and communities to embrace the technology and reap its benefits.”

“To make this happen, the Scottish Government is working with a range of organisations and interested parties to ensure the swift national deployment of 5G.”

However, Wheelhouse said the actual network rollout of the technology would be “commercially led” by mobile phone networks, and “telecommunications in the UK is reserved to the UK Government”.

“We continue to press the UK Government to give us the powers and resources which would allow us to reap the significant benefits that we could see from enhanced 5G provision in Scotland,” he said.

“We cannot wait any longer, which is why we are driving ahead and setting out what action we, with the powers and resources we do have, can take to enhance digital connectivity. The Scottish Government is determined that Scotland will not be left behind. Indeed, we will continue to work with industry, the regulator and others in the public sector to make sure we are at the forefront of this revolution.”

A Scottish Government strategy was needed to ensure rural Scottish communities were not disadvantaged by the deployment of 5G, the document said.

It said there had been “insufficient investment in Scotland” in 5G to date, by the UK Government.

“Without umbrella 5G deployment across all of Scotland, the country will not reap the potential economic gains that 5G can deliver,” it said.

“To avoid repetition of the unsatisfactory deployments of the past, we are clear that more needs to be done at a Scottish level - with appropriate leadership - to ensure that 5G is delivered for all of Scotland.

“The UK Government must make further funding available to Scotland - and future funding allocations must fully take into account the challenges to widespread rollout which exist in Scotland due to our country's geography. We would expect to be fully consulted on future funding priorities.”

The UK Government’s 5G strategy was announced in 2017, with a 'Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review' announced last year detailing “the changes that are needed to give the majority of the population access to 5G, connect 15 million premises to full fibre broadband by 2025, and provide full fibre broadband coverage across all of the UK by 2033”.

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