5G: strategy for Scotland

A strategy outlining our vision for 5G and our commitment to embracing the opportunities it will give to build towards our aspiration to establish Scotland as a forward looking digital nation. 

New Scottish Government Activity to Support 5G

The Scottish Government will continue to support the various existing 5G-related projects focusing on the unique challenges that Scotland's geography and dispersed population add to 5G infrastructure deployment.

Coupled with the work that city councils are undertaking to understand the 5G requirements for deployment, the Scottish Government has recognised the need to capture this work by fostering a collaborative approach to drive future 5G initiatives across Scotland. We will take forward the following short-to-medium term actions.

1. Development of 5g Use and User Cases

  • Working with key partners, we will fund the development of a number of use case projects where 5G offers operational benefits or are dealing with challenges which require a deeper understanding of what role 5G can play in overcoming problems.

These will be focused on a number of themes including:

  • Rural connectivity: building on the 5G RuralFirst activity on Orkney, we will work with industry and other bodies including Ofcom to address 5G solutions for the rural digital divide issue building on the activity on Orkney, we will work with industry and other bodies including Ofcom to explore 5G solutions for this digital divide.
  • Remote Healthcare: secure, robust and reliable communications across rural areas will mean more effective remote health interventions, reducing the requirement to travel for specialist treatment. We will develop rural use cases for enabling technology, such as pop-up health networks, but also consider the operational demands of the hospital covering a large, geographically dispersed and often remote and very rural catchment area.
  • Agri-tech: 5G has the potential to transform rural life and industry by streamlining agriculture, aquaculture and food production. This includes the delivery of high-speed connections to support the control of autonomous tractors, drones for real-time identification/classification of soil conditions, real-time remote veterinarian diagnostics support, and proactive management of animal health. We will continue the work of the 5G RuralFirst project with partners including the Agri-Epi Centre and explore opportunities to collaborate with other research institutes in Scotland working in this field.
  • Tourism: 5G can bring innovative ways of enhancing tourism to rural Scotland through, for example, the delivery of dynamic content to the visitor experience with knock-on benefits to the local area and the economy, or provision of connectivity to tourists in very remote locations via both private 5G and authenticated Wi-Fi networks.
  • Design and Development of Urban 5G Networks: We will work with partners to develop the tools and services required for planning and development of digital infrastructure, such as 3D mapping, building infrastructure management technology and radio propagation modelling for urban environments. Specifically, the opportunity for both mobile network operator networks, alongside private 5G networks, roaming networks or shared spectrum networks will be considered.
  • Energy Management: As we move from centralised energy systems, which relied on large power stations, to a hybrid model that combines centralisation with increasing adoption of distributed energy resources, the need for fast and efficient smart grid communications technologies and IoT energy monitoring facilities is essential. Solar photo-voltaic, wind, hydro, tidal and wave can all be generated in remote locations in Scotland. 5G will unlock this further by allowing the dynamic management of renewable and distributed generation, battery storage, distribution and consumption.
  • Precision Medicine: Security of personal health data is critical, requiring new approaches which are compatible with 5G networks. Data-intensive clinical interventions require fast and secure infrastructure. 5G will support the delivery of improved personalised healthcare and well-being through collecting, analysing and aggregating data across a spectrum of connected devices, sensors and wearables.
  • Machine to Machine (M2M): IoT connectivity is a key component of so-called Industry 4.0, which is already improving the flexibility, versatility, usability and efficiency of manufacturing. Integrating 5G with IoT, Big Data, AR/VR, AI and robotics will accelerate the pace of change. The fundamental change to the architecture, operation and management of networks offered by 5G can bring transformational benefits, in particular with the establishment of private LTE/5G networks.
  • In our development of 5G use cases, we will ensure an explicit focus on security and resilience. This will include consideration of how technology could be misused and how cyber attack and other threats can be managed effectively throughout the whole lifecycle of a 5G project.

2. Access to Public Sector Assets

  • We will develop rental guidance to facilitate the use of public sector assets, including land and buildings, for the siting of 4G, 5G and other telecoms infrastructure; initially focused on those owned by the Scottish Government.
  • We will develop the case for the creation of an asset register and coordinate its development at local level and national level. Due to the required proliferation of small cells to create a 5G ecosystem, local authorities will be targeted by mobile network operators to offer their assets for use. An asset register would allow operators to examine the location and condition of local authority assets.

3. Digitalisation of Transport Scotland Assets

  • Working with Transport Scotland, we will collaborate with industry to understand how sustainable 5G transport corridors can be created. We will pilot our approach by utilising an existing trunk road to demonstrate:
    • The sharing of roadside assets to build a collaborative platform with industry to develop innovative ways to deploy 5G-ready infrastructure. This will enable industry, academia and the public sector to demonstrate and secure the collective benefits for road and rail users, local communities and businesses.
    • Retrofitting 5G-ready infrastructure using existing ducts, buildings, street furniture and power by filling the gaps to create an end-to-end stretch of trunk road that can be used to support the above vision.

4. Planning Policy

  • We will progress the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4). The Planning Bill is repositioning the framework by combining it with Scottish Planning Policy and enhancing its status as a part of the statutory development plan which will give it greater influence in individual planning decisions. Existing Scottish planning policy recognises electronic communications infrastructure as an essential component of economic growth, and that the planning system should support development which helps deliver world-class digital connectivity. NPF4 will bring an opportunity to set a clear policy framework for how planning can support appropriate rollout of the infrastructure needed to improve connectivity across all of Scotland and enshrine this as a core policy for planning decisions.
  • We will undertake a wide review of permitted development rights. We last extended permitted development rights for telecommunications infrastructure in 2017 and a recent sustainability appraisal commissioned from independent consultants suggested the option of taking this further in advance of a consultation on our detailed proposals.
  • We will publish revised guidance which will replace the existing Planning Advice Note 62: Radio Telecommunications[27]. This will provide useful information and advice to planning authorities, the telecommunications industry and the public to enhance understanding of the need for additional communications infrastructure, both to serve the growth in customer demand and in response to changing technical requirements. The guidance will advise on good practice in appropriate site selection and design, illustrating how equipment can be sensitively installed to minimise physical impact.

5. Supporting Local Authorities

  • We will develop a local authority infrastructure mapping portal, initially on a pilot basis. In order to begin implementing a 5G strategy at local level, local authorities and public sector bodies will need to know whether they will benefit from existing Scottish Government projects and the quality of the user experience. We will identify with public bodies and the private sector what the essential information is needed to make the early and long-term implementation decisions and will develop tools for accessing this information.
  • We will develop a 5G procurement toolkit. State Aid and the revised Electronic Communications Code have created perceived 'barriers' to deployment but these can be overcome and procurements initiated if there is a consistent understanding of the legislation. We aim to provide this to allow bodies to initiate discussions about procurement projects. We will also disseminate lessons learned from existing projects and look to produce guidance and assistance to local bodies.
  • We will develop best practice guidance to get 5G ready. Many local authorities are already putting in place initiatives to ensure their internal processes and governance is ready to engage with the private sector on 5G deployment. This can range from streamlining processes to creating a digital champion. 5G Scotland would share these approaches with other local authorities and work with industry to identify what else can be done.

6. Exploring Neutral Host Solutions for 5G

  • As part of the Scottish 4G Infill programme, we will explore the development of a sustainable neutral host model that can be tested in partnership with industry to reduce the cost of rural 4G and 5G deployment. The objective is to influence how the mobile network operators view the programme's proposed locations in terms of future proofing their infrastructure.
  • Working with partners, we will explore how a neutral host model could accelerate private sector investment in 5G infrastructure in a city/urban environment.
  • We will also explore how a neutral host model could be developed to create a 5G platform which demonstrates how aggregation of various rural 5G use case demands could collectively contribute to a sustainable business model for 5G deployment in rural areas - and address current coverage not spots.



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