In a major policy U-turn, the UK government now says FTTH should be fitted as standard in all new homes. The proposal comes as part of a new national telecoms strategy drawn up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
It targets all of the UK will have full-fibre broadband coverage by 2033, replacing the copper wire network that currently delivers the service. It proposes legislation to encourage more private infrastructure investment.
Research shows the UK has slipped from 31st to 35th place in the global broadband league tables, behind 25 other European countries. The data was fromM-Lab, a partnership between Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlantLab, and the results compiled by UK broadband comparison site Cable.
“We want everyone in the UK to benefit from world-class connectivity, no matter where they live, work or travel,” said DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright.
“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.”
However, it acknowledged that in some parts of the country, it was unlikely that the market could deliver by itself. As a result, the government would support investment in the most difficult-to-reach areas.
“We welcome the Government’s review, and share its ambition for full-fibre and 5G networks to be rolled out right across the UK,” commented Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive. “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.”
Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said: “Our National Infrastructure Assessment highlighted the real benefits that full-fibre broadband could offer this country’s households and businesses – and the real risk that rural and remote communities could miss out.
“So I welcome the findings of today’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, which mirror our own recommendations and will ensure that every community will benefit from these faster, more reliable connections.
“As well as broadband, this plan will also leave the UK well-placed to introduce the latest 5G mobile technology wherever people live, work and travel.”
Chris Richards, Head of Business Environment Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “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.
“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.”