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CONNECTIVITY


A computer-generated visualisation of what a national asset register will look like


Sarah Eynon, programme manager, Infralink


Mobile connectivity in Scotland is patchy for users as well as complex, disjointed and cumbersome for operators. All that could be about to change, thanks to an initiative called Infralink BY KEVIN O’SULLIVAN


A real-time map of Scotland giving an instant visual snapshot of where mobile network operators can install vital 4G and 5G technol- ogy is part of a series of measures unveiled by a government-backed infrastructure improvement agency intended to speed up next- generation connectivity. Infralink, an initiative devised


by the Scottish Futures Trust and funded by the Scotland 5G Centre, is the first national programme of its kind in the UK and will create a central hub of information de- signed to enhance the rate of next- generation mobile connectivity growth across the country. Backed by heavyweight government bodies and industry – including


Joining the dots


Sarah Eynon, programme man-


Connected Places Catapult, a UK innovation centre; DWF, the legal firm; and digital connectivity specialists Farrpoint – the ground- breaking National Asset Register will be part of a nationwide suite of tools designed to streamline a process that is viewed as unneces- sarily complex and that has been subject to numerous legal disputes between mobile network opera- tors (MNOs) and landlords, both public and private. Te opaque rules of engage-


ment, and a tendency to resort to a statutory remedy via a well- intentioned but flawed Electronic Communications Code, has led to a situation whereby demands for high-speed connectivity – height- ened during the coronavirus pandemic – are not being met.


62 | FUTURESCOT | WINTER 2020/21


ager for Infralink, explained: “For many reasons, the current process is not working as well as it should, and Infralink is the result of a piece of work that tried to understand what the barriers were to mobile connectivity, and how to help over- come them at a national scale. We conducted a discovery exercise that engaged with the MNOs, govern- ment and public sector landlords to come up with a set of proposals that are balanced, workable and transparent, that recognise both the need for control for a landlord and the wider connectivity needs of local communities.” She added: “Ultimately, what


we are designing is a best-practice oriented suite of tools that will help us continue the effective roll- out of 4G, which in turn will help Scotland secure its 5G future.” Te most eye-catching element


of the proposals is the online map of data assets, much of which is already held by existing data col- lators such as the Improvement Service, the innovation arm of Scottish local government. And if the system works as intended


it will create a marketplace for public sector assets, which will stimulate engagement between MNOs and landlords, something that has never been attempted on a national scale before. But of equal importance are the


two other measures proposed by Infralink. One is a set of standard documentation that will provide a serviceable route through the legal- ese of the code, removing the need for many resource intensive and unnecessary discussions. Te other is a payment guidance framework that aims to calibrate expectations around price, setting a balanced starting point for both parties to have fair and reasonable discus- sions about commercial terms. Tese latter two elements are


timetabled to be ready for use in early 2021. Tis will be timely given the £1bn deal signed by the UK government and the four dominant mobile operators, EE, O2, Tree and Vodafone, in March 2020. Te Shared Rural Network (SRN) aims to put an end to poor and patchy rural ‘notspots’ across the UK. Overseen by a jointly-owned company called


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