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How 5G could save UK cities £6 billion a year

The enhanced connectivity offered by 5G will make as real difference to people’s lives and pockets, says report

Smart lighting is one of the applications that could help councils regain £2.8bn annually
Smart lighting is one of the applications that could help councils regain £2.8bn annually

UK cities are being warned to upgrade to 5G or potentially miss out on productivity savings of £6 billion a year. The analysis comes from mobile operator O2, following publication of its report, The value of 5G for cities and communities.


The report identifies how 5G will ‘update the operating system’ of our cities, making them smarter and creating tangible benefits for citizens and local councils as well as generating £6 billion in productivity savings for the UK economy.


“Of all the ingredients that keep our economy and society moving, arguably top of the list is mobile,” said O2 CEO, Mark Evans.


“Our report demonstrates how 5G technology, when it arrives, will provide unprecedented benefits for consumers, councils and cities alike. The enhanced connectivity on offer will make a real difference to people’s lives and pockets.


“However none of these benefits are assured. We need a high level of collaboration to press ahead with the roll-out and to hardwire 5G into the fabric of our cities.”


The report predicts that through 5G, local councils will collectively share an annual £2.8 billion of efficiency savings, brought about by:

  • An £890 million reduction in social care costs for those living alone like the elderly, facilitated by 5G telehealth and monitoring. This will allow families and councils to consider alternatives to private residential care or employing carers
  • The introduction of commercial and residential smart refuse collection, which will save councils £1.8 billion
  • Energy savings of £91 million, facilitated by the adoption of smart LED street lighting, which can be dimmed or brightened remotely as needed – like Telefónica’s projects in Malaga and Santander.

The report also sets out how cities’ transport infrastructure will be improved, reducing commuting time:

  • 5G sensors on railway lines will drive improvements in predictive maintenance, reclaiming an estimated £440 million in lost productivity for the UK economy and regaining the average rail commuter 2.6 hours a year
  • Meanwhile, 5G-enabled road management systems, able to respond seamlessly to traffic volumes, will reduce the time spent stuck in traffic by 10 per cent for the UK’s 5.6 million vehicle commuters
  • Commuters will also be better connected to street-level data via mobile journey planning apps linked to connected street furniture such as lamp posts and bus stops, helping them better plan journeys and avoid congested routes.

Meanwhile, O2 estimates every household will save up to £450 a year:

  • £145 will be shaved off household energy bills through the introduction of 5G-enabled smart grids that drive dynamic pricing, enable better distribution, and allow consumers to choose where they buy energy
  • Households’ council tax bills will be £66 less, if councils pass on the saving created through smart refuse collection
  • Households will save an additional £236 by reducing food waste thanks to the introduction of smart fridges, which will send ‘shelfies’ of their contents to consumers’ smartphones, helping them avoid buying un-needed food
  • Car owners could save an additional £1,600 in annual fuel costs, when an extra 1.3 million electric cars are brought onto the roads by 2025 as a result of 5G-proofed energy grids that can withstand mass charging of electric cars.

The report also predicts GP consultations will be streamlined, relieving pressure on the NHS:

  • Replacing just 5 per cent of GP appointments with telehealth video-conferencing will reduce physical GP visits by 4 million per year. This will be made possible thanks to the responsiveness and speed of 5G, which will also power improvements in telehealth imaging and data collection
  • Waiting times for GP appointments will fall, as 1 million hours of GP time is freed up, creating productivity gains of £1.3 billion through less employee absence during the working day.
  • Meanwhile, 5G will enable the widespread adoption of wearable monitoring devices that will reduce 30-day NHS hospital re-admissions by 30 per cent through aftercare monitoring, saving our cities £463 million per year and decreasing overall bed occupancy rates by 6 per cent.

O2 is calling for greater collaboration between industry, government, local councils, landlords and developers to ensure Britain can reap the benefits of 5G and maintain its digital leadership.


The operator has already been taking steps to pave the way for the roll-out of 5G in the UK. Last month, it announced it will partner with AEG to launch a 5G trial at the O2. Its parent company Telefónica also launched its 5G Technological Cities project in January, which will see the Spanish cities of Segovia and Talavera de la Reina converted into 5G living laboratories over the next three years to 2020.


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