Barriers to infrastructure

Public Accounts Committee report: Improving Broadband

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report Improving Broadband. It states that the revised target of at least 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 is challenging and there is a risk that the very hardest to reach premises will be struggling with slow broadband for many years to come. Other concerns include the lack of detail about how the £1.2bn of the £5bn funding will be used to support the roll-out to the hardest-to-reach 20% of the UK’s 31m premises, and the slow progress in delivering the policy and legislative changes sought by industry. The report sets out the PAC’s conclusions and recommendations.

It is worth noting that gigabit-capable broadband networks (FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1) now cover 37.4% of UK premises, which is an increase from 22.1% six months ago.    (more…)

Next steps in Government’s £5 billion gigabit broadband plan

DCMS has launched a technical consultation on its draft procurement strategy for the UK Gigabit Programme setting out plans to connect the first one million homes and businesses and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK by 2025. The consultation seeks views to help target delivery of the programme, which includes demand-led approaches such as the voucher scheme and the new ‘outside-in’ supply-side interventions. The new procurements for gigabit infrastructure will begin in Spring 2021 and build is expected to begin at the end of 2021/early 2022.

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DCMS Committee publishes 4th report on Broadband and the road to 5G

Evidence to the inquiry found little confidence that nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 could be delivered, and MPs raised concerns that only 25% of the Government’s £5 billion to support roll-out to the hardest-to-reach premises will be made available during the period. The 4th report by the DCMS Select Committee says it would not be acceptable for Government to fail to meet the less ambitious target through lack of effective planning or inadequate investment. The report also finds the target for majority 5G coverage by 2027 ambitious given the ruling to ban the use of equipment by high-risk vendors.

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BSG Paper ‘COVID & accelerated digitalisation: the implications for broadband’

The UK is undergoing a fundamental re-evaluation of the value that telecoms bring to the UK economy. The pandemic has consolidated the pivotal role that digital connectivity plays in underpinning the economy and wider society. Broadband and mobile connectivity have been the backbone of the accelerated drive to digital adoption, as the paper by Robert Kenny of Communications Chambers sets out. (more…)

2020-21 Spending Review and National Infrastructure Strategy

In his Spending Review statement today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that borrowing is expected to reach £394bn for the current fiscal year (19% of GDP) which is the highest recorded level of borrowing in peacetime. He spoke of three priorities: getting the country through coronavirus, stronger public services and delivering record investment plans in infrastructure (including faster broadband for over five million premises in the UK and 4G mobile coverage to 95%). The government also confirmed £3bn for a three-year Restart programme to help a million people who have been unemployed for over a year to find jobs. A levelling up pot of £4bn will also be available for local infrastructure projects. (more…)

Government guidance to drive 5G and fibre deployment

DCMS and MCHLG updated valuation guidance to facilitate siting of digital infrastructure 

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman and Local Government Minister Simon Clarke have today written to local authorities setting out how they can help boost gigabit broadband rollout and 5G mobile coverage, pointing to new government advice on land access and valuations. The advice aims for quicker deals that grant access for new digital infrastructure, such as 5G masts and full fibre broadband cabinets on public land, and with reasonable rents attached.

 While councils are obliged to get ‘best value’ when agreeing land access agreements, non-monetary benefits such as enhanced connectivity for residents to work from home and SMEs to trade online, should be taken into account, as highlighted in our report ‘Impact at a local level of full-fibre and 5G investments’.  (more…)

Almost 500,000 premises across the UK are now connected to gigabit-capable broadband

Government announced that almost half a million premises are now connected to a gigabit-capable network, which is part of the £1 billion government funding commitment until the end of 2021. A further £5 billion funding will help the hardest-to-reach areas. 45,000 vouchers, worth more than £90 million, were issued to help cover the costs of delivering gigabit speeds directly to people’s homes and businesses. Counting commercial investment, more than 7.5 million premises can now access gigabit-capable broadband, compared to around 1.4 million premises in 2018. (more…)

Review of the Access to Infrastructure Regulations – Call for Evidence

Government has launched a call for evidence as part of a review of the Access to Infrastructure (ATI) Regulations 2016, which enables sharing of information about access to physical infrastructure across the utility, transport and communications sectors. It also includes the right to access that infrastructure on fair and reasonable commercial terms and conditions.  (more…)

Gigabit Connectivity to New Build

Mandating the provision of fibre connectivity as standard in new build developments has been a longstanding policy priority for BSG and we responded to the DCMS consultation in December 2018. We welcome this week’s announcement that developers in England will now be required to install gigabit-capable infrastructure and, subject to a cost cap, a gigabit-capable connection. This will deliver internet speeds 200 times faster than you would need to watch an HD film on Netflix. (more…)

Planning reforms proposed to speed up 5G deployment

Government launched a consultation on potentially amending permitted development rights for operators win order to extend mobile coverage and support 5G roll out. The joint consultation between DCMS and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government closed on November 4th. The BSG submitted a response.

2017 saw Government agree reforms to the Electronic Communications Code with the intention of making it easier and cheaper for communications apparatus to be installed, maintained and upgraded, following commitments from mobile network operators to invest significantly and reach specific coverage targets. Further Government reforms to planning regulations have followed, aiming to support expanding mobile connectivity. (more…)

National Infrastructure Commission seeks views on future of regulation

The National Infrastructure is looking for opinions on the regulation of the energy, water and telecoms sector – both current and future changes that may impact on and affect these industries. The call for evidence just published will support the regulation study that the NIC has undertaken at the behest of the Government in October 2018. (more…)

Network deployment speeds ahead whilst adoption lags

Ofcom yesterday published their annual Connected Nations Report which tracks the progress on deployment and take-up of digital infrastructure and the services provided over them.

The headline stats are that superfast (30Mbit/s) fixed connectivity is up 3 points to 94% of homes and businesses from last year, with 4G coverage from at least one operator up to 91% of the UK’s landmass. This is steady rather than spectacular progress, as you would expect at this stage of the network deployments. Full Fibre connections, a key focus for Government policy following the FTIR, now stands at 6% of premises.

Around 2% of UK premises still cannot currently access broadband services offering a 10 Mbit/s download – the threshold below which the Universal Service Obligation (USO) would kick in. This has halved in the last year and Ofcom will be hoping to see continued progress in 2019 in order to reduce the target area for the broadband USO which will come into effect next year. (more…)

Regulatory barriers continue to hinder European investment – at the FT ETNO Summit

The mood from The Financial Time-ETNO Summit today in Brussels was one of tentative, if not forced, optimism amongst the background feeling of missed opportunities from the recently agreed European Telecoms Code and the repeated sentiment that Europe is risking its potential for investment from the tech sector with its fragmented regulatory approach and low rates of return on investment.

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