The UK has been pushing forward with its full fibre revolution, making digital connectivity a central component of its recently published Levelling Up White Paper. The paper sets a new 2030 target for nationwide ‘gigabit-capable’ broadband and 5G coverage for the majority of the population. While it’s positive to have a target set, it should be noted that it’s five (2025) and three (2027) years later than the government’s respective initial targets set.
To meet this target, or even coverage to just 85% of the population by 2025, urgent policy reform is still needed. While the Government has been working on reforms, including making it easier to access land to install infrastructure and ensure that new homes are built with gigabit-broadband installed, industry stakeholders have been calling for further tax relief on new gigabit investments and for the Government to address skilled labour shortages that could delay rollout.
Both The Public Accounts and DCMS Committees have said that progress on these reforms has been slow, claiming the Government risked missing the 85% target in the face of “considerable challenges” to infrastructure roll-out.
The “challenges” have been substantial. The country’s fiscal position has worsened, the full fibre connectivity supply chain impeded, and numerous lockdown’s disruptive. City AM recently reported that BT shareholders and investors are looking into whether the company’s full fibre broadband rollout was negatively affected by the Omicron surge over the festive period, following several companies reporting major staff shortages during the latest wave.
The economics of FTTP deployment are unavoidable everywhere. Therefore, it is essential to reduce any unnecessary barriers to FTTP deployment to achieve coverage as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Reducing barriers will also increase the number of premises that can be covered on a commercially viable basis without the need for government subsidies.
After all, with an estimated price tag of around £30bn, building and rolling out a nationwide full fibre broadband network is no mean feat. It’s already been announced that just £1.2bn of the £5bn promised funding will be delivered during this parliament, and the Levelling Up White Paper gave no concrete details on any further initiatives. In an article for IT Pro Portal last year, our Executive Chairman Mikael Sandberg discussed how funding is one of the main barriers to deploying a UK-wide FTTP network.
One thing is sure, the importance of allowing the UK digital infrastructure and telecoms sector to fibre-up faster has never been more pertinent. Access to Gigabit connectivity is vital for economic and socio-economic growth, transforming communities with ‘smart’ initiatives and improvements such as better access to employment, education and healthcare. So, following Mikael’s article in March 2021, where are we in our mission to get Britain connected?
In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, we explore the major topics surrounding UK connectivity, from the intensification of full fibre deployments, to full fibre’s role in powering 5G, to the future of work. Our next blog will examine Britain’s fibre progress, why it’s crucial, and what can be expected this year.