A government minister has proposed that in order for the UK to remain competitive technologically, it needs to have a fully fibre network as well as 5G connectivity.
During the Broadband World Forum in London, Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, called for the country to approach internet connectivity in a way that acknowledges how valuable it is to both businesses and citizens' lives.
While the US and the UK led the initial drive to install telephone lines and build up mobile networks, the country then fell behind when it came to rolling out 3G and 4G networks. Hancock believes that unless serious action is taken by both the market and the government that the same thing could occur with the current rollout of fibre and the upcoming rollout of 5G.
He highlighted the need for increased connectivity, saying: “By 2020, the volume of global internet traffic is expected to be 95 times its volume in 2005, in the UK, fixed internet traffic is set to double every two years. We need the digital infrastructure that can support this; providing ubiquitous coverage so no one is left out, and with sufficient capacity to ensure data can flow at the volume, speed and reliability required to meed the demands of modern life.”
Hancock also raised the point that the government has not been strict enough in requiring higher internet speeds and that the 28Kbps Universal Service Obligation is no longer enough for today's needs and those of the future. He was also critical of the country's mix of a fibre and copper network, noting that: “The price we've paid for 95 per cent superfast part-fibre broadband is that only 2 per cent of premises have full fibre.” Only a full fibre network will be able to meed the demand of businesses and consumers going forward.
According to Hancock the government will not be able to make the changes necessary on its own and the market will have to help drive the adoption of high speed internet. However, it will be able to make it easier for the companies willing to invest to make full fibre and 5G possible.
Hancock explained how the government could support the market, saying: The market will have to lead. But government can support that by ensuring the right incentives are in place and any barriers are removed. I want to know from you what we can do to reduce the cost of full fibre roll out, so that in reality as well as rhetoric, fibre is the future.”
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