The National Infrastructure Commission today called on Government to ensure it is on the right path to get full fibre broadband out to all homes and businesses by 2033 with a short term target of by Spring 2019 seeing the production of a nationwide full fibre connectivity plan. The National Infrastructure Assessment – the first ever of its kind – examines the UK’s economic infrastructure needs up to 2050.
Its focus for the digital sector was ensuring that digital connectivity needs will be met through full fibre and cautions government to ensure that they don’t let indecision now risk the UK being left behind.
Specific recommendations include for Ofcom to promote network competition by deregulating where competition is effective; subsidies for rural and remote communities should begin by 2020; measures to cut the cost of full fibre should include ensuring that obtaining wayleaves would be the same process for digital infrastructure as for other utilities and local government should designate ‘digital champions’ to improve telecoms processes. Government and Ofcom should also plan for copper switch-off by 2025.
The Commission’s analysis reveals that over a 30 year period building and maintaining a full fibre network would cost £33.4 billion – an estimated £11.5 billion more than an incremental upgrade to the existing infrastructure. The Commission also recognises that although the demand is currently not all there for full fibre, the limitations posed by copper combined with the projected bandwidth demands make the case for full fibre roll out, especially as delivery could take anywhere between a decade and 20 years.
Investment now is therefore essential and the Commission is asking the government to give investors the confidence through providing a clear decisive strategy on backing full fibre and achieving nationwide delivery.
The Government is expected to publish shortly its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review– outlining how it proposes to meet the digital connectivity needs of the UK and promote investment in full fibre and 5G networks.