British govt. plans to cover UK with 5G SA by 2030

The UK government has laid out plans to cover all populated areas of the country with 5G standalone (SA) by 2030. It also announced its aim to invest $124 million (£100 million) in 6G research. 

The government released its UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy policy paper this Tuesday. The high-level document reveals plans to move from what the administration calls “basic 5G” — the non-standalone (NSA) version of the standard that uses the 4G LTE control plane to manage 5G calls and more — to the pure SA version that utilizes a 5G core. 

The administration has promised a total of $186.3 million (£150 million) to boost 5G and digital connectivity across the country. 

Dear old blighty, like most of the rest of world, has largely deployed NSA 5G so far. Vodafone UK is the only UK mobile network operator that as so far launched a trial of its 5G SA network, with plans to switch it on commercially next year. 

The government said that that the plan is to move to full 5G SA service for the country by the end of the decade. “Our ambition to deliver nationwide coverage of standalone 5G to all populated areas by 2030, ensuring that we can bring its full benefits to villages and rural communities well beyond cities and towns,” Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Department for Science, Innovation and Technology wrote in the forward to the paper.

“Standalone 5G will drive growth in the industries of today and tomorrow, including in emerging sectors like artificial intelligence,” Donelan said.

The government has already handily beat its stated aim of delivering a basic 5G signal to the majority of the UK population by 2027. UK regulatory authority Ofcom reports that 77% of UK premises receive a basic 5G signal now.

Now the administration wants to start the move to 5G SA.

It is putting up a $49.66 million (£40 million) fund to encourage 5G investment across the public and private sector. The directorate admitted that much of the early investment in pure 5G will take place in urban areas that offer a faster return on investment.

Disruptive Analysis founder Dean Bubley noted that the report said that a lot of 5G economic benefits are outside scope of normal public networks, i.e in factories, and may need private networks instead.

Of course, the administration also claims that 5G SA will enable new technologies like robots, drones and, sigh, "driverless cars."

Politically, Donelan, naturally, supported Boris Johnson when he was the UK prime minister for a hot minute. Donelan’s partner, Tom Tucker, made millions out of PPE contracts delivered to the government during the Covid-19 pandemic. Donelan, of course, denied any wrongdoing. 

Making millions won’t be an issue with the 5G plans — nobody ever makes any money out of telecoms.