How to successfully procure and partner to deliver 5G
Designing, building and operating 5G networks will likely mean collaboration with other organisations and specialists. 5G opens up new routes to deployment, which require careful consideration of the various procurement routes and processes available. Identifying the right route to market can help to inform the development of a business case and the identification of the right partners.
Private and public sector organisations working together can sometimes be tricky, and successful partnerships require recognition of the commercial realities of any engagement (the private sector organisation must be able to make a profit) and clear identification of what the local authority can contribute to the partnership (such as the value of any assets provided). Similarly private sector organisations must understand the drivers and challenges for local authorities
Navigating your way through these considerations can seem overwhelming. Which is why we've spoken to local authorities - and the private sector organisations they've worked with - to identify key learnings and advice from their own experiences.
Have you got insights and learnings that others could benefit from? We'd love to hear from you at email@example.com.
“We can’t realise the ambition we have, on our own”
Liz St Louis, Sunderland City Council
5G is already available in more than a hundred of the UK’s major
towns and cities today. All four major mobile operators offer a
coverage checker service to help you see if 5G is available in your area. You can access these below:
These services will provide you with an insight into coverage but not necessarily capacity, which may change in a location throughout the day. Cambridgeshire undertook drive testing activities to gather an understanding of the “true” coverage available to residents and businesses, enabling them to identify gaps.
As the trade association for mobile network operators in the UK, Mobile UK is dedicated to working with Government, regulators, civil society and others to harness the power of mobile to improve the lives of our customers and the prosperity of the UK as a whole. From a policy perspective, they have explored how local authorities will play a key role in the rollout of 5G and have published a report with best practice and information on the local authorities that are already taking steps to enable better cooperation and assisting the mobile industry, as well as a checklist for local authorities. Their local authority 5G guide also clearly outlines the benefits that 5G can deliver to places. Mobile UK can be a valuable body for local authorities to work with in order to ensure positive interactions with the mobile network operators.
For local authorities who feel they do not have the skills, resources or funds to build 5G networks, the key to connectivity is partnership. Places therefore may wish to consider how they can make themselves as open and easy to work with as possible. Publishing the assets that can be used for the deployment of infrastructure is an important first step to achieving this. Such an approach has been taken by Glasgow, Oxfordshire and West Midlands 5G. Other places and placemakers, such as the Essex & Herts Digital Innovation Zone and the Scottish Futures Trust, have plans to do so. Critically, making these asset catalgoues easily accessible to industry ensures it’s as seamless as possible for instastructure builders and operators to work with places. The Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator is looking to fund innovation projects exploring the development of digital asset management platforms to simplify and provide a common approach to this process.
Standardisation of fees and commercial agreements can all help to create an enivronment where it is easy for infrastructure operators to work with your place. Glasgow has adopted a standardised and transparent approach to fees and commercial agreements, designed to minimise the time needed for negotiations and help investors understand exactly what costs are associated with deploying in the city. Similarly the West London Alliance is focused on ways of working and creating processes that are transparent across all seven boroughs, with common templates to facilitate engagement and negotiation with operators looking to invest in and work in the area.
The Infralink programme in Scotland builds on this, with a belief that if the process of engagement between potential landlord and tenant is standardised as much as possible, then both sides will benefit from more efficient negotiations and more certainty. Their toolkit is designed to work across assets and geographies, and contains standard documents for leases, wayleaves and Master Agreements as well as payment guidance. Significantly, the toolkit is based on taking a ‘different’ approach to negotiations, focused on balanced and standardised starting points and engagement.
Cambridgeshire has established a dedicated Enabling Digital Delivery service, a barrier busting team that works with network providers, telecoms operators, housing developers and council teams to resolve a wide range of fixed and mobile infrastructure issues including wayleaves, street works permits and infrastructure problems and planning. This also provides key transport, business and housing data to help network providers plan future investments, while their Street Works Guidance outlines best practice for engaging with their Street Works team to increase the number of successful permit applications and work approvals. Glasgow also provides a wealth of planning advice and guidance to make the planning process as seamless as possible. Significantly, they have also chosen to allow network builders and operators to deploy their technologies as and where required, rather than trying to ‘architect’ the digital fabric of the city. The West London Alliance is also focused on identification and resolution of common blockers to faciliate strong engagement with operators. While DCMS’ Barrier Busting Task Force contains a number of resources to support local authorities.
Many local authorities use property and land agents to provide additional resource, expertise and capacity in the management of their assets. West Midlands 5G and Scottish Futures Trust both told us that when used, it is important to ensure that agents are aware of the ambitions of digital infrastructure programmes. Critically they should be instructed and empowered to respond appropriately in support of the delivery of digital strategies. This may require a review of asset management strategies and a review of standing orders that are potentially obstructive to the deployment of digital infrastructure, such as moratoria on specific uses of local authority assets.
In counties with multiple administrations, or towns or places that independently may not be seen as an attractive prospect for industry investment, the formation of collaborations and alliances can be an effective way to increase your investability. Such an approach has been taken by local authorities in Oxfordshire, where a joint MoU was signed, and in Essex & Herts where Broxbourne Borough Council, East Herts District Council, Epping Forest District Council, Harlow Council, and Uttlesford District Council have formed a Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) along with social care, local acute care and strategic health providers, educational establishments, charities and private sector partners. The DIZ was created out of the recognition that there was no ‘go-to’ organisation or individual that any potential investor could approach to discuss digital infrastructure. By bringing together a community of local organisations and agencies in a single place they aimed to create a potentially more attractive proposition for investors and fulfil their ambition to be “the best connected place of its type in the UK”. Similarly the Tay Cities Digital Partnership brings together four local authorities (Angus, Dundee, Fife, Perth & Kinross) who are working in collaboration across an economic geography to promote 'world class digital connectivity' by jointly seeking funding for projects and engaging with the private sector as one body.
Such alliances can also be valuable in dense urban areas. The West London Alliance is exploring what levers the area may have to increase the attractiveness of the boroughs to potential investors, with a view to connecting not just the commercially attractive locations but all locations including ‘not spots’.
You may wish to undertake soft market testing to better understand the interest of infrastructure builders and operators to invest in your area, based on the assets that could be made available to them. Glasgow City Council took this step in 2018 and the PIN they issued to facilitate this can easily be adapted by other places. Sunderland conducted a similar exercise and produced a prospectus for potential investors.
5G - and specifically neutral host - could provide potential revenue streams to local authorities. However, many of the local authorities we have spoken to, including Glasgow and Oxfordshire, have taken a pragmatic approach and are prioritising the desire for ubiquitous connectivity for their communities over revenue generation. Similarly Norfolk County Council has decided to make local council sites available to mobile network operators at below market rates. Sunderland has taken a slightly different approach whereby they are investing an equal share of capital with corporate partner BAI and will share revenue. They have also become the anchor tenant of the newly deployed infrastructure, helping to mitigate the commercial risk to BAI; this is a strategy Mobile UK identifies can also help to enable connectivity in areas that might otherwise struggle to be commercially viable. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has created a Joint Venture with Cambridge University - Light Blue Fibre Ltd - to make ducts and fibres available on a commercial wholesale basis.
Once you’ve decided on the right business model for your authority, commercial agreements will need to be put in place, which may be unlike those you’ve previously created. In such instances you may find the Government guidance on access agreements useful; West Midlands 5G has utilised this for the development of their agreements for digital infrastructure. Glasgow City Council has developed rental agreement templates for everything from small to macro cell access. They can also be easily adapted and applied to other places; West Midlands 5G made use of their small cell agreement for example.
For larger scale procurements, you may wish to use Crown Commercial contracts; both Sunderland and Oxfordshire used RM6095 to procure a dark fibre network and infrastructure deployment respectively. Sunderland also used RM3808 to procure a 5G private network.
A strong governance process will enable you to regularly monitor progress not just for the deployment of 5G, but beyond as you look at utilisation and into assessment of business cases. All local authorities we spoke to, from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to Oxfordshire, Sunderland and Glasgow, were very clear that a dedicated governance board was critical to ensure as deployments begin, progress is kept on track to realise the initial vision. The terms of reference for the Glasgow Digital Board can be a useful starting point for any place looking to define the role of a governance board, while the governance structure used by Sunderland can be easily adapted.
Clearly defining communication and access channels for industry partners can make it easier for everyone to work together. DCMS’ Digital Infrastructure Portal suggests that local authorities may wish to appoint a digital infrastructure coordinator who can act as the primary point of contact and account manager for industry. In Glasgow, a separate Telecoms Unit was set up which acts as the single point of access for digital infrastructure industry and service providers. This unit facilitates digital infrastructure deployment in the city and provides an escalation route to ensure a prompt resolution to any queries from the industry. This structure reflects Glasgow’s strategy to encourage all investors to engage with the council, rather than conducting a procurement exercise. West Midlands 5G have also successfully deployed Digital Champions & Coordinators in the region to assess barriers to deployment and liaise with all partners.
Mobile UK also recommends regular catch up meetings and round tables to support a collaborative approach between the mobile industry, local political and business leaders.
BSI has published PAS 180 - focused on smart city terminology and 181:2014 - a smart city framework designed to act as a guide for establishing strategies for smart cities and communities. It covers a number of elements, including the economics surrounding smart city development. The PAS was developed with inputs from a number of organisations including Royal Borough of Greenwich, Leeds City Council, Birmingham City Council and Peterborough City Council.
Find the right supplier to help you deploy 5G