Supporting the enablement of better connectivity is a key objective of our shared Sutton and Kingston Councils’ Digital Strategy and with many of us now working from home, remote schooling, streaming TV or turning to online gaming for entertainment – the demand for fast wireless technology is ever increasing.

What is 5G?

5G is short for ‘fifth generation mobile networks’. It is the next generation of wireless network technology and will allow individuals to connect to high speed, reliable internet on mobile devices, laptops, tablets remotely and in their homes. 

In the same way that mobile phone technology develops with each new handset that is introduced, the same is true for the technology and equipment that forms the telecoms network. Once fully incorporated, 5G networks will provide speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G, will be more reliable and will be able to deliver new technical capabilities.

What are the benefits of 5G?

Faster Download Speeds: 5G will provide much faster speeds than are achievable with today’s 4G networks. 5G is expected to provide speeds between 1GBps and 10GBps. This would mean a full HD movie could be downloaded in 10 seconds as opposed to 10 minutes with 4G.

Lower Latency: 5G will also have significantly lower latency meaning very little lag (or buffering), with reaction times faster than the human brain. This will enable applications that simply aren’t possible today, such as: multiplayer mobile gaming, self-driving cars, factory automation, and other tasks that demand quick responses.

Greater Capacity: 5G will also have vastly greater capacity so that networks can better cope with not only the rapidly increasing data demands of customers today but the growth of high-demand applications being planned in the future.

Improved Council Services: A wide range of council services have the potential of being improved due to the harnessing of new capabilities provided for by 5G.

Economic importance

The Council has a vital role to play in encouraging economic development in the borough, and digital connectivity is a key part of this. Our ambition is to ensure that businesses have the infrastructure to grow by improving Sutton’s connectivity. Our residents also expect strong connectivity in their homes, on their phones and throughout the borough.

Is 5G harmful to health?

Public Health England has concluded that overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health. There is also no evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus. These theories have been rejected by scientific experts in the World Health Organisation and Full Fact, a UK-based independent fact-checking charity.

Anyone with concerns should refer to Ofcom (the mobile industry regulator) and Public Health England. These organisations are responsible for advising the government on medical aspects of the technology and will be able to provide the latest guidance.

5G has the potential to have a range of positive impacts on people’s health through the greater use of smart technology.

What involvement does the Council have?

The Council has a responsibility to enable modern digital infrastructure to empower residents, local businesses, as well as the community and the voluntary sector. The deployment of these modern networks is complex and requires strong collaboration not only between telecommunications operators, councils and third parties (such as contractors), but also internally within the Council. This has become increasingly more important since changes to the Electronic Communications Code were introduced via the Digital Economy Act 2017.

The Council is also responding to the needs of residents and businesses for faster, more reliable internet connections through a new approach to working with telecoms operators and mobile networks to deploy “small cells” on council assets such as street lighting columns.

New telecoms masts for 5G technologies are subject to code rights granted by the Electronic Communications Code and also the local planning process. However, the siting of any new masts is proposed by the applicant and then assessed by the Council. The majority of new masts are likely to be submitted through a prior approval process which is a light touch regime for the assessment of proposed masts and equipment, and the Council can only consider the siting and appearance of the mast. If the proposed mast does not meet the dimensional criteria assessment for the prior approval process, then the proposed mast will require full planning permission. All full planning and prior approval applications can be viewed on the Council’s planning portal.

The details of the prior approval regime can be found under Class A of Part 16 of the General Permitted Development Order.  Guidance for the assessment of telecoms equipment can be found within the National Planning Policy Framework under Chapter 10.

Further resources

The government has, in collaboration with Ofcom, produced materials explaining the facts about 5G to help you to combat the disinformation that is spreading online. Further information can be found in 5G mobile technology: a guide.

More resources available regarding this are listed below: