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UK Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review promises high-speed fibre to all by 2033, with huge benefits for industry

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The UK government has pledged to bring high speed fibre and 5G to the whole country by 2033, opening up new opportunities both for the telecoms industry and the wider world of business, which can derive great benefits from faster comms and new services.

According to the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) also said it would be pushing to make super-fast full fibre broadband installed as standard in new properties.

Part of the modern Industrial Strategy, the FITR also suggests reforms to widen the scope of the 5G roll out as well as connect 15m premise to full fibre broadband by 2025.

DCMS secretary Jeremy Wright said: “We want everyone in the UK to benefit from world-class connectivity no matter where they live, work or travel. This radical new blueprint for the future of telecommunications in this country will increase competition and investment in full fibre broadband, create more commercial opportunities and make it easier and cheaper to roll out infrastructure for 5G.”

Wright continues: “The FTIR’s analysis indicates that, without change, full fibre broadband networks will at best only ever reach three quarters of the country, and it would take more than twenty years to do so. It also indicates that 5G offers the potential for an expansion of the telecoms market, with opportunities for existing players and new entrants.”

Key measures outlined in the FTIR also includes giving operators a ‘right to entry’ to flats, business parks, office blocks and other tenanted properties to give renters access to better connectivity and choice of supplier.  It will also invest in rural areas to ensure parts of the UK outside of cities also get access to full fibre.

DCMS will also work with Ofcom to lead an industry-wide switchover from copper to fibre.

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said: “We welcome the government’s review, and share its ambition for full-fibre and 5G networks to be rolled out right across the UK. The government and Ofcom are working together, and with industry, to help ensure people and businesses get the broadband and mobile they need for the 21st century.”

An Openreach spokesperson adds: “We’re encouraged by the Government’s plan to promote competition, tackle red tape and bust the barriers to investment. As the national provider, we’re ambitious and want to build full fibre broadband to 10 million premises and beyond – so it’s vital that this becomes an attractive investment without creating digital inequality or a lack of choice for consumers and businesses across the country. As the Government acknowledges, the economics of building digital infrastructure remain challenging for everyone, and we believe a review of the current business rates regime is necessary to stimulate the whole sector.”

They continue: “We want everybody in the UK to have fast, reliable access to the internet and we’re actively working on ways to increase adoption of our superfast and ultrafast services across the country. As more and more devices, appliances and services go online, we want every home and business to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want online, all at the same time. We’re already building full fibre to around 10,000 homes and businesses every week, and by 2020 we’ll have reached 3 million. We have a huge, world class engineering team and wherever we build, we’ll deliver the best quality network with the highest levels of service and built-in competition and choice. We’re determined to be the dependable partner for  Government, the industry and our 600 wholesale customers as we work to bolster Britain’s position as a global digital leader.”

And the move will also have profound impacts on those wholesale customers an across UK business. According to Chris Richards, Head of Business Environment Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, 91% of manufacturers say a high speed internet connection is as essential to their business as electricity and water.

More than a third of manufacturers are spending more than £5000 pa on internet connections (23% of small manufacturers, 50% of mid-sized and 89% of large), while a third of manufacturers have invested in a dedicated leased line connection.

Richards says: “Today’s Review is a major step towards delivering the full fibre digital network that industry needs to embrace the 4th industrial revolution and comes hot on the heels of the National Infrastructure Assessment published last week. Manufacturers across the country have been investing in leased lines to get around the unreliable connectivity options in their area, but for those furthest away from fibre connections this has proven too costly to achieve.

He continues: “For manufacturers looking to invest in digital technologies to boost their productivity, today’s announcement of an ‘outside-in’ strategy, which will see hard to reach rural areas prioritised first for government support, is a significant mark of progress. With Britain languishing against competitors on full fibre availability, the government should bring forward the required legislation to enact these changes swiftly to ensure UK manufacturers are not hindered in their attempts to boost productivity.”

Mark Collins, Director of Strategy at CityFibre, adds: “Today marks the day the Government decided once and for all to leave copper behind and commit the UK to a full fibre future, making clear that a new generation of infrastructure builders is the vehicle for delivering its bold ambition for all homes and businesses to be connected to full fibre by 2033, not just Openreach. CityFibre is already building the networks that the UK’s economy needs to prosper and is ready to work with industry and Government to make this a reality quickly.”

Collins continues: “The Government’s plans to deliver nationwide full fibre include a welcome commitment to creating a level-playing field, ensuring greater transparency from the incumbent and delivering a stable regulatory environment for investment. However, it is critical that the consumer is at the heart of this fantastic opportunity from the start, as this is the key to unlocking demand. That means avoiding price rises, ensuring switching between networks is simple and ending the years of misleading ‘fake fibre’ advertising. Getting both sides of the equation right is key to ensuring millions of homes and businesses will benefit – we now need to see the Government and Ofcom push these plans through.”

CityFibre’s wholesale full fibre networks will reach no less than 20% of UK homes and businesses by 2025, and we will continue to connect even more people to gigabit speed broadband as we progress to 2033.

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