The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has successfully secured more than £0.5m from a new £4m government fund to further boost future connectivity in the region.
The Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) Pilot funding will be used to map out the region’s publicly owned assets such as buildings, land and street furniture that is capable of housing mobile infrastructure.
The West Midlands is already at the forefront of 5G technology, which is seen as a key element in levelling up the region, after being selected by the government in 2018 to be the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed.
The regionwide project, which involves the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the WMCA and WM5G, has been accelerating the 5G network and the West Midlands has now become the UK’s best-connected region for 5G.
The Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) Pilot, which is being run by DCMS will see the WMCA use the £500,000 to run the pilot following an open competition. The WMCA is leading this bid, supported by its subsidiary WM5G, and will be working closely with an extensive group of partners – including platform providers, operators, landlords and others.
Advanced wireless networks such as 5G will require a significantly greater amount of network infrastructure. The DCIA Pilot programme has been established to support the implementation of automated digital solutions to map and utilise publicly owned for mobile infrastructure.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We are thrilled that the West Midlands continues to be at the forefront of new technology, and DCMS awarding us a share of the £4m from their Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator is further confirmation of our status as a 5G pioneer.
“Now we will roll up our sleeves and get to work on testing an interactive map and marketplace solution to automate key elements of the process of 5G deployment, accelerating delivery and rollout, bringing efficiencies to both operators and local authorities. This will help to drive forward new technology and innovations for the maximum benefit of citizens and businesses in our region.”
Cllr Pat Harley, WMCA portfolio lead for Digital and Culture and leader of Dudley Council, said: “We are delighted to lead this pilot via the DCMS funding competition. It offers the opportunity to extend the West Midlands position as a connectivity leader and will enable us to bring the benefits of future connectivity technologies to more people, businesses and public services.”
“The biggest barrier to increasing advanced connectivity is access to infrastructure. By building and proving an automated platform such as this, we will facilitate the continued deployment of 5G – and other network technologies – across the region and beyond.”
Robert Franks, managing director at WM5G, said: “This pilot will help us accelerate the levelling-up the region through faster and more widespread deployment of 5G, aligning to the strategic objectives of the WMCA, and ambitions of the region’s Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships.”
The region is already the first to produce a Connected Map, through WM5G. More than 400,000 assets have been mapped to-date along with the creation of simplified processes and standardised agreements for mobile network rollout and site upgrades. This has already allowed quicker access to assets, reducing deployment timeframes by 6 months.
The DCIA pilot provides an excellent opportunity to further develop and prove this concept – making it even easier and faster for operators to deploy and upgrade connectivity. The new platform will maximise automation of the end-to-end process, focussing on improvements. The end-goal is to create a solution that works for both asset owners and landlords and delivers a commercial model that can be self-sustaining with the ability to deliver a national rollout.
On a micro level, the pilot will add automation and further standardisation to the acquisition process, reducing time and costs. At the macro level, the pilot will increase connectivity and create multiple opportunities to close the digital divide ensuring greater inclusion for citizens, whilst allowing businesses to become more efficient and competitive.
Infrastructure Acceleration (IA) has been a key part of WM5G’s remit since its inception, with the extensive experience of WM5G’s dedicated IA team being pivotal in securing the funding.
Through its ground-breaking Barrier Busting approach, WM5G has been working with public sector bodies and Mobile Network Operators to overcome obstacles in the implementation of infrastructure. The region is already sharing lessons learnt with government and other local authorities across the UK.
For more information on WM5G’s Infrastructure Acceleration team or to make an enquiry to find out how they could support you, please visit https://www.wm5g.org.uk/projects/infrastructure-accelerator/