Delivering Gigabit Britain
Full fibre broadband and 5G rollout
The UK has a nearly full coverage of superfast broadband at speeds of 30Mbit/s and above, mostly via FTTC. In 2019, the government set a target of achieving a minimum of 85% gigabit-capable infrastructure (FTTP and DOCSIS 3.1) by the end of 2025. The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review outlined a package of measures to create the right market and policy conditions to deliver connectivity for citizens and businesses. Operators are making significant strides and in January 2021 just over 37% of UK premises had access to a gigabit-capable network. A key theme of BSG’s work programme continues to be raising the profile of demand-side issues in the broadband policy debate, as well as looking at the legislative and non-legislative levers and measures. In 2020, BSG commissioned WIK to look at the international experience of network roll-out and the customer experience of new fibre services and to consider how the findings can inform the UK’s approach.
The government’s decision to remove high-risk vendors from 5G by 2027 poses a risk that could result in an even less diverse market. OpenRAN presents an opportunity to move away from the current consolidated vendor environment to one in which operators no longer have to consider which vendor to source from. The Telecoms Diversification Task Force has been set up to support the development and implementation of the government’s strategy on the UK’s telecoms supply chain. The Telecoms Security Bill will turn these commitments into law after being introduced in autumn 2020.
Collaboration between government, Ofcom, industry, local authorities and property developers is key to overcoming barriers to rollout. Making it easier for network providers to access public sector property to install, maintain and upgrade their apparatus. Following best practice guidance on streetworks will help achieve this, but there remain obstacles when trying to gain access, planning and wayleaves and labour skills shortage. The very hard to reach rural areas are particularly challenging, but the government’s Outside-in programme is intended to address that to some extent. BSG facilitates regular barrier-busting workshops with stakeholders to address the legislation (namely reform of the Electronic Communications Code, Telecoms Infrastructure Bill, building regulations, Permitted Development Rights for masts, access to infrastructure, implementation of EECC and business rates) and the non-legislative levers and measures such as engagement by local authorities and landlords.
We have published several related reports: