5G: vital for Suffolk’s prosperity, but infrastructure delays holding businesses back
Demands are growing from Suffolk’s business community for the county to be at the forefront of the industrial revolution likely to be sparked by the rollout of fifth generation (5G) mobile technology.
The results of a month-long survey (January/February 2023) conducted by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce showed that local firms were very aware of the enormous benefits to be had from using 5G. But the same research also suggested many are worried that delays to rolling out the needed infrastructure could hurt their growth plans – and the county’s longer-term prosperity.
5G represents a generational advance over 4G technology as it provides not only advanced data and voice connectivity but is the key platform for the ‘internet of things’ and other advanced automation systems.
Evidence from Suffolk Chamber’s research also showed that approximately one-in-five firms were already using the technology to some extent with no fewer than 43% looking to develop future products and services requiring 5G connectivity.
Early adopters of 5G are currently concentrated in the manufacturing, logistics and telecommunications sectors, but the Suffolk Chamber survey shows that organisations in others as diverse as healthcare, culture & tourism and professional services are investigating investing in the technology.
According to the survey, the key motivations behind companies’ current and future investment and interest in 5G relates to more efficient processes, entering new markets, improving asset management and enhanced R&D outcomes.
However, the same research also showed the extent of business worries that the case for investing in 5G infrastructure by the four operators (EE, Virgin Media O2, Three and Vodafone) needed to be stepped up and Suffolk more generally was not fully geared up to support the rollout of 5G infrastructure.
One respondent to the survey said: “We need to have confidence that 5G is actually going to be available to design new systems and ways of working.”
Another added: “Our future business plans definitely encompass 5G and we may have to either consider other service offerings/technology or move out of the area if our bandwidth causes service delivery issues.“
Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of public affairs, believed that the survey results: “should act as an eye-widening wake-up call for both the industry and Suffolk’s local authorities.
“5G could be a productivity game-changer for Suffolk and we have every chance of ensuring that we are at the forefront of the queue and not playing catch-up with 5G, as we seemed to be during some of the 4G rollout.”
“It is clear that investment decisions will be led by commercial imperatives and it is vital that Suffolk sends out the clear message to the operators: we welcome 5G and we welcome it now!”
“Ultimately, Suffolk has the chance to be a 5G hub before most of the rest of the country, giving our businesses a vital competitive head start. There is no time to lose to make the case for investment in 5G infrastructure, especially along the A14 Growth Corridor.”
Suffolk Chamber is planning to share the research results with the county’s local authorities, MPs and other stakeholders to encourage a coordinated approach to backing the rollout of 5G infrastructure.
The Chamber is also taking a leading role in promoting the importance of 5G technology on a national stage by working with Mobile UK, the national trade body representing the four operators, and the British Chambers of Commerce.