The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), which represents Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland in England, recently announced that it will invest £ 7million in a new fund for 5G and future connectivity, which is largely intended to help boost mobile and “full fiber”Broadband connectivity in rural areas.
The funding, which is part of a larger £ 12million package that will also support start-ups and “unleashing the potential of digital and technological companies», Will form the basis of a new system which has been split into two complementary programs.
One program will focus on accelerating the commercial deployment of high-speed Internet connectivity (i.e. the goal being to facilitate rather than fund direct deployments), while the other will aim to encourage a deployment. fastest 5G mobile networks and technologies in the region.
At this time, none of the market engagement activities needed for this program have started and no proposals have been made, so we don’t yet know what the outcome of all of this will be. A recently released agenda document from last month’s cabinet meeting sheds some more light.
Extract from the NTCA Council of Ministers of July 27, 2021
Accelerate the commercial deployment of Internet connectivity
This strand will involve the proactive development of a “digital connectivity and infrastructure needs assessment”. It will develop a clear vision of the actions needed to remedy the shortcomings in the provision of fiber and 4G and 5G connectivity. Public investment will facilitate rather than finance direct deployment: the aim will be to encourage faster commercial deployment and greater coverage. The work will include the preemptive development of a business case for future government investments – which is typically awarded on a competitive basis
By performing a joint inventory analysis, we will identify digital infrastructure needs and priorities for future investments, which represents a down payment in readiness to access future government resources.
As part of this work, we will also seek out and consider any work proposals aimed at removing barriers to the deployment of connectivity infrastructure. Expressions of Interest will be sought for detailed investment cases for ‘Barrier Deployment’ – with the possibility that North of Tyne funding can be used alongside commercial, government or local authority funding to accelerate deployment. .
NTCA 5G innovation program
This proposal is to execute an open process to shape 5G investments and business opportunities in the region. We will do this by starting a direct engagement with the private sector to bring forward industry-specific proposals for consideration. This will allow NTCA to drive the market, encouraging a faster deployment of 5G in the region and connecting this new technology to industries, skills and data analytics capabilities that are important to us.
The proposed components of this program are:
– First, work with telecom providers to establish opportunities to accelerate the pace of 5G implementation in our region
– Second, raise awareness of opportunities to increase competitiveness through 5G by stimulating industrial innovation – this will include working with key industries to conduct specific proof of concept trials, building on knowledge and cases existing uses and developing new ones – for example in health, engineering or rural agriculture.
– Third, establish a unique 5G “accelerator” / innovation center facility; this will allow businesses to immerse themselves in a live 5G network and work with other organizations to determine how 5G can unlock new applications and services.
The expected results – which will be tested through a business case assessment – will be opportunities for job and business growth, as well as faster implementation of 5G technologies and avoiding the risk that the NTCA area does not fall “late” on the implementation of 5G. This is particularly important as the expectations of residents and businesses adapt – the highest levels of digital connectivity creating new employment and leisure opportunities, expanding access to services and facilitating low emission lives. of carbon. The future connectivity program will therefore support both directly and indirectly the broader ambitions of the Combined Authority.
In practice, most of this funding will likely end up going to rural Northumberland, which represents most of the NTCA areas that suffer from poor digital connectivity. We could also see it as helping to support both the £ 5bn Gigabit project broadband rollout program and the £ 1bn Shared rural network (SRN), which aims to improve 4G mobile geographic coverage.
Richard Wearmouth, North of Tyne Clean Energy and Connectivity Cabinet Member, said:
“This will be a game-changer for the region. It will accelerate investments in infrastructure and connectivity in North Tyne, supporting industry-led innovation in our rapidly growing technology sector.
And it will give real incentives to mobile networks and infrastructure providers to deploy ultra-fast wireless and fiber technologies across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. The power of digital solutions can help countless businesses emerge from the crisis.
From artificial intelligence to data clouds, from digital innovation hubs to deep tech start-ups, innovation, growth and productivity, and technology will go hand in hand. “
The biggest difficulty here is that the proposed £ 7million investment on this side of the program is just a drop in the ocean of what might actually be needed, which helps to explain why there is more focused on facilitation rather than funding direct deployments. So while the additional investment is welcome, its impact is unlikely to be as great as the sound clips of their ad.