A report outlining the substantial economic, social and environmental benefits to be gained from greatly enhanced 4G and 5G capability across Scotland has been published today by infrastructure experts, the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT).
The SFT-commissioned report, Scotland’s digital potential with enhanced 4G and 5G capability, states that if Scotland capitalises on opportunities presented by 4G and 5G, in just over 15 years Scotland’s GDP could increase by £17bn and that annual tax revenues could rise £5.7bn as a result from 3,000 new businesses employing 160,000 more people.
It was released on the same day as the Scottish Government’s new Forging our Digital Future with 5G, a national strategy paper for 5G which calls for greater funding for Scotland’s connectivity (telecomms is reserved to Westminster); it welcomed the UK Government’s investment in 5G but cited the ‘challenges’ around widespread rollout in Scotland owing to the country’s geography.
Non-stop connectivity delivered through 5G networks has the potential to improve access to healthcare and education, deliver seamless multi-modal transport experiences and reduce energy consumption and costs through smart, integrated energy grids.
The Deloitte report, commissioned by SFT, points out that the benefits from digitalisation will require long-term commitments by policymakers and industry to address key challenges. The report has therefore been published to coincide with Scottish Government’s 5G strategy which sets out Scottish Government’s commitment and the steps it will take to embrace the huge economic benefits to be derived from enhanced 4G and 5G capability.
The report also highlights how new ‘use cases’ enabled by 5G could have profound implications for Scotland. With a relatively low population density and approximately 330,000 residents living in remote rural areas, the potential benefits from remote service delivery may be particularly significant in Scotland, for example in terms of healthcare, education and training. This will ultimately be reliant on seamless digital connectivity where the current Scottish Government funded Reaching 100 programme, to extend fibre broadband coverage as far as possible to deliver access to 100% of premises in Scotland, and 4G infill project are predicted to play an integral part in achieving this aspiration.
Derek Graham, programme director of SFT’s digital infrastructure team, explained: “The Deloitte report highlights the substantial benefits that Scotland could realise by fully embracing the potential opportunities that improved digital connectivity and future 5G technologies can offer.
“Having access to seamless digital connectivity is therefore paramount to securing inward investment where extensive cross-sector collaboration will be required to facilitate the development, demonstration and commercialisation of key use cases to encourage the private sector to invest further in Scotland.
“We will therefore use our previous experience working with the Scottish Government to influence how we support further collaboration between local authorities, industry and academia to set the foundations for Scotland to be 5G ready.”
Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “I welcome this publication which, in setting out the economic case for investment in next generation mobile connectivity, provides strong support for the Scottish Government’s new 5G Strategy. We are taking forward a collaborative approach across the public and private sector to ensure that Scotland fully realises its potential as a forward-looking 5G nation.
“Working closely with Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) since 2014, we have used industry insight and experience to develop our £25 million Scottish 4G Infill programme. I look forward to continuing this successful partnership with SFT, who will be an integral part of the delivery team behind our 5G Strategy, to ensure Scotland can gain the economic and social benefits of this important enabling technology that has so much potential to support innovative new services.”
Sam Blackie, lead partner for the EMEA economic consulting practice at Deloitte, concluded: “5G technology has the potential to enhance connectivity and productivity across Scotland. In order to unlock the economic benefits 5G can bring, there are a number of challenges for businesses to address. These range from securing spectrum, ensuring fibre availability, and establishing the business case for 5G deployment and the improvements it can bring.
“At the same time, it’s important to note that while 5G is poised to deliver significant benefits to communities and businesses, there are still vast gains to be realised from improving existing 4G connectivity, particularly in rural areas.”