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UK Chancellor: Full-fibre network by 2033

May 24, 2018

By Colin Mann

Philip Hammond, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, has targeted seeing full-fibre to the premises connections being available to 15 million premises by 2025 and committed to delivering a nationwide full-fibre to the premises network by 2033.

Delivering a speech at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Annual Dinner 2018, Hammond said that the government was in agreement with industry on a number of imperatives.

“We must embrace digital technology, and ensure Britain is at the forefront of the technological revolution. We must invest in skills and training – to ensure the next generation is prepared for the economy of the future. We must build the world class infrastructure and invest in the R&D needed to ensure Britain stays ahead in the global race,” he declared.

In particular, he suggested that it wouldn’t be possible to put the UK at the front of the pack unless there was infrastructure that is fit for the future. “And that is why infrastructure is at the heart of our plan. In the 18th century, it was canals; In the 19th, it was the railways, and in the 20th the arterial roads and then the motorways. In the 21st century, fibre networks will be the enabling infrastructure that drives economic growth,” he suggested.

“We’ve already connected more than 95 per cent of the UK to superfast broadband. But we must now take the next big leap forward. Full-fibre networks are faster, more reliable, and cheaper to operate than their copper predecessors. Over a million premises already have direct access to them 70 per cent of those connected in the last 18 months alone,” he noted.

“But if we are to achieve our ambition of a truly high-speed economy, and keep up with our competitors, then we need a step change in our approach. So I am now setting a new target to see full-fibre to the premises connections being available to 15 million premises, that’s the majority of homes and businesses, by 2025.”

He admitted that this was “ambitious” and would require industry to connect more than two million additional premises a year for the next seven years. “We won’t do that by government diktat. We will do it by creating the conditions for the market to deliver, and we will use all the tools at the government’s disposal to ensure that target is met, and we’ll go further, by committing to finish the job – and deliver a nationwide full-fibre to the premises network by 2033,” he stated.

“Running both copper and fibre networks indefinitely will not benefit either the consumer or the industry, so we must start thinking now about that switchover and how to sharpen the incentives for industry to move customers away from copper and on to fibre. And Matt Hancock, the DCMS Secretary, will set out our strategy to deliver these ambitious targets in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, later this Summer,” he advised.

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