The UK Government has outlined a strategy to surge full fibre broadband and 5G connectivity in hard to reach rural areas, as well as ensuring mandatory full fibre for all new build homes by 2033.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) is part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy and proposes that drastic changes are required to enable the majority of the population to access adequate services. It also aims to connect over 15 million premises to full fibre broadband by 2025 and establish full nationwide coverage by 2033.
Greater consumer choice, initiatives to promote quicker fibre rollouts and collaboration between government and industry are all essential to the success of future connectivity, the review says.
Full Fibre for Every UK Household
Analysis contained in the review indicates that, without change, full fibre broadband networks will “at best only ever reach three-quarters of the country” – a potentially disastrous outcome for millions of households left in the dark during a digital age. It also suggests that based on current practices, the process will take more than 20 years to achieve even 75% coverage.
5G, however, offers immense potential for an expansion of the telecoms market, providing opportunities for both existing market figures as well as new entrants.
To ensure digital accessibility across the UK, the FTIR recommends a number of key areas that require attention.
- New legislation that will guarantee full fibre connections to new build properties and developments.
- Providing operations with a ‘right to entry’ to flats, business parks, office blocks and other tenanted properties, so as to enable those who rent to receive adequate services.
- Public investment in full fibre for rural areas to work in conjunction with commercial investment in urban locations.
- Increased access to spectrum for innovative 5G services.
- Ofcom to reform regulation, allowing for unrestricted access to Openreach ducts and poles for both residential and business use.
- A new nationwide framework which will reduce the costs, time and disruption caused by street-works by standardising country-wide approaches.
The FTIR also recommends an industry-led switchover from copper to full fibre infrastructure in collaboration with Ofcom as well as reforms to the “regulatory environment for full fibre that will drive investment and competition”.
Reforms to the regulatory environment is a key aspect of driving digital connectivity, the review says. The FTIR, it is claimed, will “drive competition and commercial investment” in full fibre networks across “as much of the UK as possible.”
Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “This radical new blueprint for the future of telecommunications will increase competition and investment in full fibre broadband, create more commercial opportunities and make it easier and cheaper to rollout infrastructure for 5G.”
The review does acknowledge certain limitations, however. There will likely be some areas of the country where it will be unlikely that the market will be able to deliver alone, according to the government. Nationwide availability of full fibre will require additional funding of around £3 billion to £5 billion in order to support commercial investment in certain areas.
The government says, therefore, it will pursue an “outside-in” strategy, meaning that while network competition serves “commercially viable” areas, the government will support investment in some of the most difficult to reach areas in the UK at the same time.
According to the review, the government has already identified up to £200 million of funding within the current superfast broadband programme that can be used to further the delivery of full fibre networks.