How to engage your local community to successfully deploy 5G

5G has the potential to transform our towns, cities and rural areas.  But as with any change or new deployment, you will achieve better results when your communities are engaged and understand the opportunities.

Issues around data ownership and security need to be considered and communicated, while 5G can bring some specific challenges around addressing local health fears and dealing with planning objections to masts. 

From identifying the right stakeholders, to identifying when the right time to engage the public is and encouraging communities to use new services as designed, a proactive approach to community engagement can help to ensure the full potential of 5G can be realised, by everyone.

We've spoken to the local and regional authorities who have already embarked on this journey, to gather their key insights, as well as the guides and tools they used along the way.

Have you got insights and learnings that others could benefit from?  We'd love to hear from you at marketing@uk5g.org.

Discover guides, documents and insights from other placemakers

Top Insights

  1. Identifying and bringing all relevant parties together at the start of the process, to identify and commit to the collective ambition, will always play a pivotal role in not only agreeing what is to be achieved, but how to realise that
  2. Significant investment in community engagement at the pre-start stage of a project or programme can ensure you're rooting your endeavours in solving real challenges, rather than being perceived as a solution looking for a problem
  3. Be clear about the difference that advanced connectivity, and particular use cases, will make to people so they can understand the benefits to them.  It’s important to be realistic about this and wherever possible, point to proven outcomes from other projects or deployments.
  4. Invest in external comms channels - online and offline - that address both key local stakeholders and the public 
  5. Community engagement should be an ongoing exercise - providing regular updates will keep stakeholders interested
  6. Monitoring community forums can be a useful way to monitor trends in your community, even if you do not actively engage
  7. Two-way dialogue is key: town hall meetings and opportunities for community members to be heard and feed into plans can help to drive subsequent adoption of new services
  8. Acknowledge concerns and questions that your community may have around 5G.  It’s important to be sensitive to these, engage and address them.
  9. Actively seek out evangelists to advocate on your behalf and engage with harder-to-reach sections of society. 

Engaging Key Stakeholders

Engaging the local community means working with LEPs, county councillors and neighbouring local authorities.  The Essex & Herts Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) works hard to foster and develop better collaborative working between local partners and businesses as well as identify cross sector challenges and opportunities.  Continuous and significant efforts are therefore made to engage local partners through a monthly online advisory board which is open for anyone to attend, ask questions of, or make proposals to. Proposals are considered on the same day by an executive board made of senior elected members from each District and county area. 

Ongoing Dialogue

Regular communication is essential.  A key way to do this is by developing dedicated websites (such as Sunderland and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority), ensuring key information is available on your website (as Oxfordshire and Glasgow have done) or by presenting your vision in the context of broader plans, for instance Worcestershire’s 2020-2040 plan for growth which is based on their vision of a “connected county”.  Keeping such assets regularly updated will ensure people stay engaged over longer deployments.

Regular progress can also be communicated through social channels, with different channels enabling you to reach different audiences.  West Midlands 5G and 5G RuralDorset for instance have LinkedIn accounts and newsletters which they use to regularly communicate with interested professional parties.  Glasgow provides regular updates, with a strong focus on tangible benefits to citizens and local businesses, on their website.  While the Essex & Herts DIZ produces a weekly “top links” newsletter as well as hosting regular smart places seminars and events with partners and local businesses, which are subsequently written up and published as resources

5G Education

Not all stakeholders will have the same level of knowledge around what 5G is, how it differs from previous generations and what it can enable.  Bringing people up to speed early on is a critical component of any engagement plan.  We’ve compiled some key guides and assets to help upskill colleagues and stakeholders, as well as creating a helpful glossary to cut through the jargon.  Mobile UK’s Local Authority 5G Guide can also provide a useful insight into how 5G can transform places, while the West London Alliance has produced its own briefing materials for the local authorities it represents as well as any organisations interested in working with 5G in the boroughs.

What Is 5G?
Engaging With Your Residents

Knowing when and how best to communicate 5G plans to your residents can be tricky. Special efforts have been made from the beginning of the Essex & Herts DIZ partnership to ensure sustained involvement of the community and voluntary sectors from each area.  Monthly online advisory boards are therefore open to the public as well as local businesses and partners.  The 5G RuralDorset project has heavily invested in community engagement which has helped to build trust and reduce resistance to 5G projects in Dorset.  They keep local communities up to date on progress through regular blogging and social media. Nottinghamshire County Council are helping the local community be a part of their 5G project in Sherwood Forest, with a competition for local schools to name their 5G-powered robot dog. The West London Alliance has undertaken a number of initiatives to make sure the community is engaged on multiple levels including, health, social care, and employment. The intention is to help residents seen the link between the benefits they could get and the physical infrastructure required to deliver them.

Sections of your community may have varying concerns around 5G deployment and it’s important to be sensitive to these.  The Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) project has worked hard to engage the public and listen to peoples’ expectations, concerns and questions around 5G.  Based on their experiences and the inputs they captured, North Yorkshire County Council and the other project partners have created a community engagement toolkit.

View the MANY Engagement Toolkit

Digital Inclusion

The London Office or Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has funded eight sub-regional officers (two in each sub-region) to support the digital connectivity programme in London and the deployment of digital infrastructure and its potential to improve digital inclusion is high on the agenda.  LOTI are exploring the potential to include digital inclusion / exclusion data into their mapping tools and activities to assist service design. The West London Alliance represents seven London Boroughs and their connectivity work focuses around four themes, of which one is inclusion.  Their work aims to build in digital inclusion from the outset, by linking infrastructure to health and social wellbeing as well as employment and education opportunities.  

Community Evangelists

Sunderland has successfully recruited a team of Community Evangelists, who might be for instance a Headteacher of a primary school.   

This is an approach Manchester also successfully deployed during the CityVerve project, where they ran a local campaign to recruit citizen journalists who were given behind-the-scenes access to the project, got the opportunity to test run services and reported back to the broader community.  Recruiting a broad cross section of individuals can enable you to successfully reach all sections of society, as well as gain invaluable early feedback into services. 

How Green Is 5G?

According to the World Economic Forum, digital technologies could reduce global carbon emissions by 15% - almost one third of the 50% reduction required by 2030 - but hot on the heels of COP26, the public have never been more concerned around the sustainability and carbon footprint of the services they’re consuming.

This is something the telecoms industry is actively addressing; Vodafone and Ericsson have completed the first deployment of a new 5G radio that saw energy consumption decrease by a daily average of 43%, and as much as 55% at off-peak times.  Our recently formed Climate & Environment Working Group is also tackling this issue; you can read more about their work here.

A recent report from Mobile UK explored the environmental impact and role of 5G in supporting broader net zero goals.  Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority particularly recognise the potential of 5G to mitigate climate change and believe raising the profile of this opportunity will contribute to public support.

View the Mobile UK Report
Anti-5G Sentiment

5G technologies have the potential to offer significant social and economic benefit across the UK. However, we recognise that you may encounter some anti-5G sentiment when planning deployments.  We have collated and created a toolkit of assets, specifically designed to arm you with the facts - from peer-reviewed science and an evidence based approach - and answer the questions that people in your communities may have.  From FAQs for planning officers to a cheat-sheet guiding you to the most appropriate tool, our toolkit has been designed to help you more quickly and effectively handle anti-5G sentiment.

Learn More


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