5G and broadband speed boosts expected in £1bn Autumn Statement package
Britain’s digital infrastructure is to be given a £1bn upgrade in the upcoming Autumn Statement from Chancellor Philip Hammond [pictured].
As part of the package, Hammond is expected to tell MPs that the Government will invest £400m to boost development of new ultra-fast “full-fibre” broadband.
A further £700m will be provided to fund a new programme of 5G trials aimed at transforming mobile communications.
This funding should bolster the efforts of the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey which was launched last year as a testbed for developing the new communications standard.
Currently only around one million premises in the UK have access to full-fibre, described as the “gold standard” of broadband, which is considered to be both more reliable and more secure than traditional copper internet cables as well as being faster.
Ministers hope that by providing support for emerging providers looking to scale up through a new digital infrastructure investment fund, at least two million more homes and businesses will gain access to full-fibre.
With the capacity to reach speeds of one gigabit per second, users could potentially download an entire series of Game of Thrones in less than a minute.
It is expected that the new Government funding will be matched by private finance, encouraging the market to ramp-up the roll-out of full-fibre broadband.
The statement is also expected to focus on other areas, with roads getting a £1.1bn boost and a further £220m to deal with “pinch points” on Highways England roads.
Hammond is expected to give the green light for the National Infrastructure Commission’s call for an expressway between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
“With its new targets for full-fibre broadband, the government is setting goals that will truly future-proof the UK’s connectivity infrastructure – rather than settling for part-fibre investments that will not meet the digital needs of businesses and consumers in five years and beyond,” said William Newton, director with WiredScore which collects data on internet infrastructure.
“There is certainly a long way to go before the UK becomes fully fibre, with many areas still not yet benefitting from the government’s previous ultrafast or even superfast targets. But this new investment is another clear example of the government’s essential investment in ensuring that the UK stays at the forefront of future-proofed digital industries.”
Andrew Ferguson, editor at thinkbroadband.com, said: “£400m of investment aimed at the smaller operators is very welcome, and so long as companies can raise the match-funding to unlock the money it should help to spur on deployment of [pure] fibre to the home.
“The target of two million premises covered by this money is very reliant on the level of funding the smaller operators can add.
“The other factor is where you are deploying in dense urban environments a cost per premise passed can be as low as £400 (for blocks of flats it may be even lower) but studies show rural areas increasing to £2,000 due to the greater distance between properties.
“On the world stage pushing the UK further up the league tables may now be seen as politically important, but the Government must not neglect those with slower broadband and while we do expect a chunk of the two million premises to be those with under 10 Mbps speeds, the fund is not explicitly aimed at them.”
Dr Li-Ke Huang, research and technology director at Cobham Wireless said: “The government’s promise to enable local authorities to bid to trial superfast 5G mobile networks is a positive step forward that could help accelerate the commercialisation of next generation mobile technology in the UK.
“5G promises consumers and businesses higher data rates and multilayer functionality that could power future IoT systems, new mobile services and machine-to-machine technology like smart cars.
“For the UK’s digital economy to benefit from the technology, it will require innovations and breakthroughs – not only in the traditional wireless technology domain, but also in the overall system design methods and principles used.
“The UK must move now to put in place large scale intelligent network infrastructure testing solutions, to ensure successful 5G development as early as possible. The 5G innovation centre at the University of Surrey is actively involved in testing the performance of 5G, but we need continual investment in new solutions to support 5G development, looking at chipset and radios, and end-to-end network performance. This will provide the wireless industry with the blueprint to begin developing the coherent technological framework needed to support 5G.”