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…)
The announcement today builds on the earlier government update, setting out that a further 250,000 English homes and businesses are now eligible for boosted funding from 17 English councils for the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
More than £22 million of additional funding has been provided by local councils to top-up the values of the vouchers in their areas. The Scheme targets areas where the cost of building new gigabit broadband infrastructure is likely to be too high for commercial operators to cover alone. Since May 2019, vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small and medium sized businesses and up to £1,500 for residential premises have been available to cover these costs in rural areas across the UK. (more…)
BDUK pilots a new consumer-led approach for Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
BDUK has announced a new website to enable a consumer-led approach to make it clearer to residents and small businesses how they can access the Rural Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. Currently, the Scheme is supplier-led. This means suppliers request the voucher on behalf of their customers. The value of the voucher contributes to the build cost of installing a gigabit-capable connection at the customer’s premises.
Gigabit broadband vouchers are a one-off contribution to homes and small to medium-sized businesses that want to install a faster, more reliable connection over gigabit-capable infrastructure in group projects. Organised by Building Digital UK (BDUK) and funded by DCMS, the programme is tasked with delivering broadband networks to the nation.
The website now enables individuals or communities to register their interest in getting a voucher, makes this visible for suppliers and enables them to express interest in providing a service. Programme Director Justin Leese stated that: “So, whilst remaining supplier agnostic we essentially walk the customers up one side of the hill, the suppliers up the other side and let them make their own introductions at the top!” via LinkedIn. The Broadband Upgrade Fund is a pilot campaign available to rural premises in Cornwall, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Cumbria and Northumberland. (more…)
Ofcom – Changes to WiFi, EECC update, Guidance for Vulnerable Customers and Call for Evidence on Emerging TechnologiesGulistan Ladha
Ofcom is making airwaves in the lower 6 GHz band available for WiFi services without the need for a licence, following a consultation earlier this year. The technical requirements for WiFi routers are also being amended to ease congestion and help meet the growing demand for wireless services now and in the future.
A further consultation on revised proposals to implement the new EECC has been launched, ahead of the final decisions due to be published in the autumn. These are (i) changes to the scope of the rules on annual best tariff information and (ii) revised definitions for ‘microenterprise’, ‘small enterprise’ customers and not-for-profit organisations. Deadline is 11 September. (more…)
The Broadband Stakeholder Group publishes research by Oxera to help local authorities understand the localised economic benefits of full-fibre and 5G
Key localised economic benefits of full-fibre and 5G include:
- Local authorities can see up to 3.2 per cent increase in new businesses operating in the area. If reflected in business rates, a local authority could see an increase in gross revenue of over £10,000
- Existing businesses will see an increase in productivity which should result in an expected increase in turnover of up to 3.8 per cent per worker per annum
- Local authorities can realise direct benefits by being able to implement more innovative public service delivery whilst driving down costs, such as through increased cloud adoption.
The report illustrates the level of public and private sector investment into the UK’s key infrastructure sectors, extending out 30 years in some sectors. For Digital Communications it sets out investment for the next three years which aligns with current Government funding programmes and given that most companies have not made public commitments beyond then.
An appendix to the report contains further details of individual company’s commitments – such as Virgin Media’s Project Lightning – through to Government projects for clearing the 700MHz spectrum band.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on these funding commitments next year as the need for Government investment increases in order to deliver the outside in approach for full fibre investment outlined in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.
Addressing the CBI Annual Dinner last night, Chancellor Philip Hammond put full fibre infrastructure at the heart of his vision for a post- Brexit Britain leading the world in innovation. Pledging not only to deliver full fibre connections to 15 million premises by 2025, he also committed “to deliver a nationwide full-fibre to the premises network by 2033”.
Government has pledged £67 million towards investing in full fibre broadband connections through the Nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS). Vouchers worth up to £3000 for small and medium sized businesses or £500 for residents will be issued to help bring down the costs of getting gigabit connections.
The scheme forms part of the £200 million Local Full Fibre Networks program – of which £95 million was this week awarded to 13 bidders across the UK.
The DCMS call for evidence for the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review signalled the opening of the conversation around what – if any – policy interventions could benefit long-term investment in the infrastructure required for the next generation of digital technologies.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) is pleased to continue its partnership with the Broadband World Forum (BBWF), which this year will take place in Berlin. Over three days (24 to 26 October) more than 300 speakers, amongst which the BSG, will share their expertise on the latest broadband technologies and discuss the future of connectivity.
The National Infrastructure Commission today reported back to Government on how to ensure that the UK can become a leader in the deployment of 5G and take early advantage of the applications that it may enable.
The core finding of the NIC is that mobile connectivity is essential and that the market, as currently structured, will struggle to meet these two objectives on its own and that the whole of Government must work with industry to deliver on them.
Chancellor Philip Hammond reaffirmed today the need for the UK to level-up its ambition for world class connectivity in an Autumn Statement placing digital communications infrastructure as a priority area of investment, critical to boosting UK productivity. The Chancellor confirmed the Government’s plans to invest over £1billion in the roll-out of full-fibre connections and future 5G communication.
The Government has briefed that it will be unveiling two new programmes in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement to make good on its view that the future is fibre (to the premise variety) and 5G. The BSG welcomes this focus on digital connectivity. All BSG members believe that good quality broadband underpins, drives and improves our society and economy.