After a shakeup in the Conservative government following the vote for Brexit this summer, the recent autumn statement was our first opportunity to see what Chancellor Philip Hammond has in store for the UK’s business and economy over the coming years.
The government is keen to show its commitment to improving the infrastructure of Britain by investing in improvements to roads and railways but also focusing on improvements to our digital infrastructure.
With that in mind, the government has promised substantial sums of money to significantly improve broadband and mobile phone coverage across the UK. £400m will be set aside to fund the Digital Infrastructure Fund focusing on fibre broadband while £740m will go towards the development of 5G, the next generation of mobile phone network usage.
Private investors are being asked to match the £400m in the Digital Infrastructure Fund to help improve the current broadband network and help providers looking to expand. Currently, fibre broadband stops at the roadside cabinet and depending on how far away from the cabinet you are depends on the broadband speed your house or business can achieve.
Now though, the focus will be on ‘fibre to the property’ broadband which is something only 2% of the UK has access to at the moment. With fibre to property broadband, properties are achieving speeds of up to one gigabit per second, some 35 times faster than the 28.9Mbps average on offer at the moment with fibre to cabinet.
Until fibre to property is fully rolled out, BT will be making use of interim technology to ‘substantially enhance’ the speeds for the majority of the country. BT chairman Sir Mike Rake spoke to the Today programme about his company’s commitments; “We are committed to getting fibre to the premise ultimately, which is the long-term game, because it’s much more reliable,”
CityFibre, a fibre infrastructure provider, has welcomed the announcement of significant investment into the UK’s digital infrastructure; “Britain’s industrial strategy needs a digital backbone, and it is essential that we move quickly to plug the UK’s ‘fibre gap’ and empower our service-based economy,”
Although the superfast broadband roll out was successful with BT improving fibre broadband to the roadside cabinet, we are falling behind other countries with our broadband and mobile phone speeds. The government wants to create a gold standard full-fibre broadband which will see fibre broadband put straight into the home and business premises.
This will significantly improve productivity for many businesses which rely on computers and the internet on a day to day basis. It will also improve prospects for those working from home, self-employed or not, to be able to have access to fast broadband and communicate with their customers, work on websites, process orders etc. all much quicker than they can currently.
While improving road and rail links helps make it easier for people to get to and from their place of work, improving the digital infrastructure should see productivity rise for many UK businesses and it is thought it will help to make lives easier for many people in the UK.