Improving Bristol’s mobile connectivity

Ultrafast Broadband
15 Dec, 16 by Phil Higgins

On 14 Dec, the government’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) released an excellent report: Connected Future.  The report looks at the current state of mobile connectivity in the UK, the transition to 4G and how crucial mobile connectivity has become, and what the country must do a better job of making the transition to 5G.

Bristol’s mobile connectivity challenge

We sometimes come across a mistaken belief that Bristol has no connectivity challenges.  This is to ignore the cities and countries that Bristol needs to compete with now and in the future, some of whom already offer greater availability of fibre to the premises (FTTP) and more complete 4G coverage.  Bristol must continue to improve its connectivity and think pervasive ultrafast speeds with no resident or business left behind.  On mobile, whilst the city has coverage from the four mobile network operators, mobile not spot issues exist in the city.  For instance, some mobile networks struggle to offer an indoor 4G signal in parts of the city.

Visit the OFCOM mobile coverage checker and see how Bristol’s indoor and outdoor coverage fares.

The report makes a very powerful case for how the competitiveness and productivity of our economy is increasingly related to the speed and quality of connectivity.  For the Bristol region to continue being an attractive destination for inward investment, particularly in post-Brexit world, and to retain its existing businesses, connectivity should be a major priority for our local economy.  Consider these facts from the report:

  • A CBI’s report found 81% of firms see more reliable mobile connectivity as essential.
  • It has been estimated that the rollout of 4G networks alone will provide a £75bn boost to the UK economy.
  • The impact that the introduction of smart mobile devices has had on how we function as a society has been unprecedented, but it was not predicted in advance.
  • By 2019, video over mobile is expected to account for 80 per cent of worldwide mobile traffic, with the rise of next generation ultra-high resolution video – “4K” – expected to contribute in increasing this further, particularly if mobile users choose to record and share 4K videos in large numbers.

Unexpected wonders ahead

One key theme of Connected Future is the impact of 3G and 4G smart phones was far greater than predicted and generated spin-offs and disruptive change. Whilst the report does a good job of predicting which sectors will drive use of 5G connectivity, we don’t know exactly what form this will take, but we can be certain some unexpected new tech and uses will develop.  One thing is certain: data will continue to grow at exponential rates and faster, higher capacity connectivity will underpin the health, or not, of Bristol’s economy.

How local authorities and LEPs could help

The report suggests how local authorities could assist with the roll out of 5G and this is something we are looking closely at.  The UK Government in its autumn statement allocated £600 million to assist with the roll out of 5G.  NIC suggests a number of ways  local authorities / LEPs could look to use their assets e.g. lamp posts, buildings, and work with the private sector to work on demonstration projects like 5G enabled city centres.

Read the NIC’s Connected Future Report

What reflections do you have on how Bristol could take advantage of the opportunities around 5G?  Leave us your comments below.

Also, if you’re a Bristol business with mobile connectivity problems, we’d be interested in hearing how it affects your business.