On 27 July, UK5G hosted an information-sharing event on behalf of DCMS for the potential suppliers around the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) programme. The well-attended event provided an insight into the programme and activities so far along with outlining the next steps. A readout of the event is provided here.
Accelerated investment in 5G and advanced wireless network densification will bring benefits to citizens and the economy. But there are a number of challenges to the network densification of 5G, which the Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) programme aims to address.
The programme will provide evidence to help the industry understand the benefits and feasibility of hosting multiple technologies—exploring the challenges of using publicly owned land, buildings and street furniture to support digital infrastructure and roll out of advanced wireless connectivity.
DCIA will be focusing on accelerating the deployment of digital infrastructure by improving the ability to access and acquire sites, and building evidence to understand the benefits and feasibility of using street furniture to host multiple technologies.
There are a number of barriers and challenges faced by network infrastructure operators
- Poor visibility of assets: It is currently very difficult for partners to find out where the assets are. Information is incomplete and varies between councils because there’s no single database.
- Unknown suitability: Even if partners do have visibility of assets, it can be difficult to know which are suitable. Surveys are often required to capture basic information (such as height, power, and so forth), most of which could instead be available through an automated system.
- Fragmented approaches: There are over 400 local authorities in the UK, all of which have different capabilities and approaches. This presents a great opportunity to standardise making it easier for operators and providers.
- Bureaucratic processes: Timescales could potentially be reduced by digitalising the process.
- Restrictive commercials: At the moment, rates vary and the ECC guidelines are not always adhered to. By supporting the development of a standardised platform, with a consistent user experience for the network providers, we could reduce time and cost per acquisition.
The DCIA project has four workstreams
1. Digital Platform: National adoption of Asset Mapping Platforms
- Market engagement: Stakeholder validation of the problem statement, feedback on the approach, and expressions of support
- Specification development: Common view or requirements co-developed by stakeholders across the supply chain
- Mobilisation for pilots: Formation of region-led partnerships to deliver user adoption pilots
- Platform adoption pilots: Testing operational adoption with regions and local authorities
- Market transfer: Promotion of national adoption through best practice
The current practice for the identification of telecom-enabled infrastructure locations is fragmented, largely manual and lacking in uniform digital tools.
Almost two-thirds of local authorities believe that there will be more than 15% growth in the number of sites using authority-owned assets over the next 5 years. But only 7% describe their current interactions with telecom companies as “fast and effective with very few issues encountered”. All Mobile Network Operators agree that a digital platform could offer benefits to their business priorities.
The Digital Platform workstream within the DCIA project seeks to support national adoption of online tools which digitalise and, to the greatest degree possible, automate the process of finding and securing rights-of-use of suitable locations for deployment of advanced wireless equipment. The aim is to make the transactions between public sector asset owners and telecommunications infrastructure providers as frictionless as possible.
2. Analysis of PFI contracts relating to street furniture assets, and best-practice guidance for Local Authorities
DCMS wrote to the 37 local authorities that have a PFI contract and asked a series of questions, of which 86% responded. Around 59% had experienced small cell enquiries, and 42% faced contract issues. DCIA will therefore be producing a project plan to understand how we can best resolve these issues, working in conjunction with local authorities.
3. Library of Standard contracts for Digital Connectivity Providers and Local Authorities
DCMS plans to publish a library of standard contracts on the DCIA website. The DCIA team is currently speaking to proactive local authorities to draw up a template, and demystify the process.
4. Standards for Smart Infrastructure
The DCIA team is producing a standard specification for smart infrastructure (for example, street lamps, charging points and IoT sensors). They are also looking at existing infrastructure and cataloguing assets to understand how they can be better used, in addition to security.
Your views based on your knowledge and experience will enhance understanding of broad requirements for Digital Platform solutions and will in turn help foster stakeholder acceptance and collaboration.
The questionnaire consists of two types of questions:
- Sections 1-3 contain several predefined statements of requirements based on end-user inputs so far, to which we want to ascertain your level of agreement or otherwise.
- Sections 4-5 present open-ended questions asking for any other considerations you want to put forward as well as providing an opportunity to inform us of your organisation’s capabilities and interest specific to the adoption of Digital Platforms.
- If you would like to request a copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be grateful if you could complete the questionnaire by the 20th of August.
The specification will be published online by the end of September. Please note: answers to all your questions will be made publicly available online unless you mark your questions as commercially sensitive.
We all want better quality, ubiquitously available wireless connectivity across the UK. But currently, there’s friction about how this process functions—DCIA is committed to coming up with a solution.
You can view the presentation from the event here.
Q&A from the event can be viewed here.