Report: UK telcos digging more than ever

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There was a 24 per cent increase in the amount of digging work performed by the UK’s telecoms industry last year, according to Digging up Britain 2021.

The report by LSBUD, which provides a free to use online search facility for underground pipes and cables, reveals that there were 1,125,843 searches through its portal by telecoms operators and their contractors in 2020. The growth was so significant that telecoms searches now account for 36 per cent of all searches made.

In total, LSBUD’s collaborative portal registered a record 3,078,670 enquiries through its system in 2020, representing 77 per cent of all digging work taking place in the UK. As such it provides a powerful and accurate barometer for the type of excavation work being undertaken.

The large increase in activity within the telecoms sector is likely in part due to the Government’s £5 billion strategy – in addition to the £30 billion funded by private industry – to deliver next generation, gigabit-capable broadband to all of the UK. To highlight the Government’s commitment in this area, broadband operators and its staff were granted key worker status during Covid-19, meaning their activity was permitted to carry on during the pandemic.

As part of this drive, the UK Gigabit Programme has outlined plans to connect one million properties to gigabit broadband and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20 percent of the UK by 2025.

Added to this activity, 5G mobile telecoms networks are continuing to be rolled out across the UK, in the hope that they boost connectivity and economic growth.

Richard Broome, Managing Director at LSBUD, commented: “Given these ambitions at Government-level, it’s easy to see why the telecoms industry continues to top the charts in terms of searches. I can’t see this momentum slowing down for a while to come.”

Digging up Britain 2021 not only analyses the volumes but also the nature of the digging work taking place. It reports that within the 3.1 million searches made last year, 904,120 were performed under the ‘initial enquiry’ category, making up a significant 29 per cent of all requests. In fact, this search type was up by 235,334 on the previous year alone – a 35 per cent increase.

Broome explained: “What this shows is that while still able to carry out projects in 2020, the telecoms industry was also looking forward to doing more this year. As Covid-19 restrictions are eased and non-essential projects get up and running again, the level of excavation work will boom, so it is important that each site has been planned accordingly, allowing the contractors working on behalf of the telecoms companies to hit the ground running. The important thing to bear in mind is that more digging can mean more danger. Hitting an underground pipe or cable is a serious health and safety threat and it can be incredibly disruptive to a utility provider’s service. So, with a surge in digging activity predicted, we urge everyone involved in telecoms projects to keep the momentum up and keep on checking for underground assets – every time.”


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