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The latest threat to the speedy UK 5G rollout? Lampposts

As if the kerfuffle over the use of Huawei tech as part of the UK’s 5G infrastructure wasn’t threatening enough to the timely rollout of next-gen speeds, there’s an ongoing row about lampposts to contend with too.

According to a Guardian report, we’re in the midst of legal wrangling about whether millions of lampposts around the country can be used to house a vast network of transmitters.

Mobile network operators (MNO) in the UK are facing resistance from local governments and private landlords in the UK, who are resisting efforts to erect the structures on lampposts and other tall buildings. This, according to experts in the field, could jeopardise efforts to get 15 million premises connected to the next-gen network by 2025.

Related: 5G Phones

Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, told the paper a new electronic communications code hasn’t done a good enough job of clearing cup who has access to what. Lengthy and expensive legal challenges have occurred as a result.

He says: “Whilst the intention of the code was to make it easier and cheaper for MNOs to roll out infrastructure, by not providing guidance nor seeking compromise, the government have in fact delayed deployments by two years, whilst the new code is being tested in the courts.”

According to the report there’s a massive backlog of cases to be heard, despite setting up a new tribunal system to deal with the increasing number of cases. One property lawyer reckons cases could face a two-year wait to be heard, which is bound to slow down the rollout of the infrastructure.

“More and more cases are clogging up the tribunals than ever was the case under the old code.” said Alicia Foo, a lawyer representing operators and landowners. “One case has already been referred to the court of appeal and more are likely. Our court system takes a long time so a two-year delay is not inconceivable.”

A BT spokesperson said it is working hard to ensure ‘street furniture’ is available to host the digital infrastructure necessary to deliver the services customers will expect.

The spokesperson said: “We’re working with local, regional and national governments to roll out even better connectivity to the areas that need it most as quickly and efficiently as possible. Ensuring that street furniture can be used to host digital infrastructure will become increasingly important to deliver the services customers will expect. So, working closely with councils, we’re keen to remove existing barriers to access, reflecting the approach set out in the new electronic communications code.”

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