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UK Announces Major Telecom Investments with Budget 2017

2017-03-10 09:35:51


The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has announced the Budget for 2017, with new measures to boost 5G mobile and another GBP 200 million for FTTH/P, ISPreview reported. The amount will go to local projects to promote private sector investment in full-fibre (FTTH/P) networks for both homes and businesses. About GBP 16 million will help set up a new 5G Mobile technology hub. There will also be a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF), with an additional GBP 400 million.


Reflecting recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission, also reflected in the recent 5G report by TechUK, the government wants to ensure the UK becomes a world leader in 5G with a new National 5G Innovation Network to trial and demonstrate 5G applications. The first phase will set up the new centre of 5G expertise, with public and private sector partners. Funding for future trials will be awarded on a competitive basis. Coverage on roads and rail will also be improved and the government will work with Ofcom to ensure UK regulations work for 5G.


The GBP 200 million will fund a programme for local projects to test ways to accelerate market delivery of new full-fibre broadband networks. To achieve this, the government will bring together local public sector customers, to create enough broadband demand to reduce the financial risk of building new full-fibre networks. It will offer full-fibre broadband connection vouchers for businesses, to increase take-up of services where new networks are built through the programme. It will directly connect public sector buildings, such as schools and hospitals. This will bring fibre closer to more homes and businesses, allowing them to be connected. Finally, it will open up public sector assets, such as existing ducts, to allow fibre to be laid more cheaply.


The new DIIF will get GBP 400 million on top of all other amount, to be matched by private finance, to invest in new FTTH/P networks over the next 4 years, helping to boost alternative networks and push FTTH/P out to around 2 million more premises by 2020.


The plan is still to deliver 24 Mbps for 95 percent of the country by the end of this year and then 97 percent by 2020, under the GBP 1.7 billion Broadband Delivery UK programme. The government also still wants 4G services to cover 98 percent of the country by the end of the year.


The proposal for a legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, for 10 Mbps minimum download speed to all by 2020, is still progressing. The House of Lords recently voted to boost this to 30Mbps (6Mbps uploads).


The GBP 40 billion UK Guarantees Scheme has been extended until 2021.


The government has also put forth other broadband related measures through its Digital Economy Bill 2017, such as automatic compensation from ISPs for service faults, improved/cheaper access to build new infrastructure on private land (ECC) and more enhancements for consumer switching.



Scotland is also developing a plan to deliver 30 Mbps coverage by 2021. Wales hopes to get there by 2020. Regarding rates, Hammond agreed that the government had to "find a better way of taxing the digital part of the economy" and hinted at measures to reduce the impact of the business rates hike in April. A consultation to be released soon will clarify the government’s plan.

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