rural internet broadband

Full-fibre broadband may be compulsory for new UK homes

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The government is considering making housing developers install full-fibre broadband cables in all new-build homes as part of efforts to ensure that the entirety of the UK can access superfast broadband speeds by 2033.

The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), announced as part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, proposes the changes that are needed to give the majority of the population access to upcoming 5G networks: to connect 15 million premises to full-fibre broadband by 2025 and to provide full-fibre broadband coverage.

Full-fibre infrastructure is “vital” to underpin 5G coverage, the government said, as it will be needed to route much of the traffic from mobile towers while maintaining the low latency and other benefits associated with 5G.

Full-fibre connections - which are faster, more reliable and cheaper to run than traditional copper-based networks - currently only stand at 4 per cent in the UK, lagging behind other European countries, including Spain at 71 per cent and Portugal at 89 per cent.

The new approach is aimed at driving large-scale commercial investment in the fixed and wireless networks in order to ensure that the UK remains globally competitive.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “We want everyone in the UK to benefit from world-class connectivity no matter where they live, work or travel.

“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.

“The FTIR’s analysis indicates that, without change, full-fibre broadband networks will at best only ever reach three-quarters of the country and it would take more than twenty years to do so. It also indicates that 5G offers the potential for an expansion of the telecoms market, with opportunities for existing players and new entrants.”

The government said that nationwide availability of full-fibre broadband is likely to require additional funding of around £3bn to £5bn to support commercial investment in the final 10 per cent of areas which are predominantly rural and cost more per household to install.

Meanwhile, the FTIR said that a realistic scenario for 5G rollout is to create a low-capacity layer providing wide-area 5G coverage using the 700MHz band.

This will be coupled with a high-capacity network in areas of high demand, such as towns and cities using the 3.4-3.6GHz band.

The EU roadmap for 5G anticipates that initial rollout of the new networks will begin next year, with full deployment across Europe in at least one major city in each member state by 2020.

Following this, the plan is to cover all urban areas, plus all the major transport paths such as highways and roads by 2025.

Considering the UK’s impending exit from the EU, it will not be beholden to this roadmap, although the government’s review should ensure that the UK maintains a similar timeline to its European neighbours.

CityFibre, one of the UK’s alternative fibre networks, welcomed the move but said consumers should not have to foot the bill. Mark Collins, CityFibre’s director of strategy, said: “It is critical that the consumer is at the heart of this fantastic opportunity from the start, as this is the key to unlocking demand. That means avoiding price rises, ensuring switching between networks is simple and ending the years of misleading ‘fake fibre’ advertising.”

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