UK still needs major telecoms upgrade, Minister warns

The Government's Digital Minister has delivered a major statement of intent concerning upgrading the nation's broadband network to be ready for 5G.

Speaking at the Broadband Stakeholder Group 2017 Conference in London today, Matt Hancock said that the country's' existing hybrid fibre services are “not fit for the future,” and were in need of major investment.

Declaring that the government would “strain every sinew” to get “full fibre” ultrafast broadband rolled out in Britain within the next few years, Hancock said that full FTTP (fibre to the premises) networks will benefit from government funding imminently.

There was a warning for BT, however, which has come under fire recently concerning the monopoly that its Openreach arm is seen as having in much of the infrastructure market.

“While I welcome the work Openreach are doing to reposition themselves, I am concerned at the speed BT Group are moving in formally implementing the agreed split," Hancock said. "Unless we make significant progress very soon we will have to talk to Ofcom about what would be needed to make this happen.”

Hancock added that the Government will also be examining the market for investment in future connectivity within the next few months, to ensure that the right regulations and market rules are in place to, “encourage investment now and in the future". 

A big focus of this will be on making it even cheaper and easier for companies to deploy new fibre, he added, noting, "We are working with local authorities to standardise their approach and reduce bureaucracy, and we’re prepared to change regulations if needed, on planning, transport, and wayleave rules if we need to."  

Currently, the Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK) is looking to extend existing networks to provide "superfast" broadband (24Mbps and faster) to 98 per cent of homes and businesses by 2020. The remaining two per cent are then covered up to 10Mbps minimum speed via the Universal Service Obligation (USO).