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Report: 5G, full fibre key to UK economic growth

October 11, 2022

By Colin Mann

If the UK government is looking to kickstart its Growth Plan, it must prioritise delivering on the ambitions for the rollout and take-up of full fibre and 5G. That is the message technology trade association techUK’s telecoms members have shared in a new report examining the impact of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), published in 2018.

The Review set in place a policy framework that was highly effective in unleashing private investment for the fibre sector, with £33.2 billion (€37.8bn) helping to drive coverage from 6 per cent to 41 per cent of premises passed today. If government wants to focus on economic growth and innovation, reducing the friction for the remaining fibre rollout should be a major priority, along with boosting the rate of take-up of fibre services. techUK concludes that “the right framework is in place – it is now time to deliver”.

For 5G, the FTIR’s impact was mixed. Positively, the UK mobile sector has made significant progress on rolling out 5G. But to realise fully the benefits of this advanced communications technology and learn the lessons of publicly funded programmes such as 5G Testbeds and Trials, government must do more. techUK offers suggestions that the forthcoming Wireless Infrastructure Strategy should take to unlock investment and facilitate the rollout of non-standalone 5G.

While it acknowledges that the deployment of 5G and fibre technologies is continuing at pace, techUK outlines key recommendations to ensure the ongoing delivery, including:

  • DCMS and the Home Office should introduce a specific visa targeted at telecoms workers to help support infrastructure businesses investing in growth.
  • The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will be critical to accelerating the rollout of fibre and 5G, it must pass as soon as Parliamentary time allows.
  • DCMS and the Department for Transport should redouble efforts to introduce the flexi permits regime so that it can be activated at the earliest opportunity.
  • A government planning regime that genuinely underpins the emerging mobile infrastructure requirements of the future, including network densification and accelerated deployment models.
  • Government must also identify further public sector use cases for 5G and fibre solutions to boost the transition to a digital-first government, unlock smarter procurement; and encourage take-up across the private sector.

“It’s great to see the progress made by the UK’s telecoms sector since the FTIR was published in 2018 – there has been positive progress in the face of significant challenges, and broadly it was the right framework,” states Matthew Evans, Director for Markets, techUK. “But in analysing the FTIR’s recommendations, our members have found that more is to be done. Barriers persist, and techUK looks forward to working with both government and Ofcom on smoothing the friction that remains for rolling out fibre and full 5G.”

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