- The United Kingdom set a goal to bring full fiber broadband to 15 million homes by 2025 and have fiber broadband across the entire country by 2033; and to give a majority of the country access to 5G technology as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.
- The policies in the new Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review include targeted investments in installing fiber in rural areas, legislation that would guarantee fiber installations for new developments, making infrastructure owned by utilities open for installing new networks and making more spectrum available to 5G providers.
- A government analysis found that with no policy changes, broadband would at best reach three-quarters of the country and even that would take 20 years. The U.K.’s broadband deployment also lags behind many other European countries with just 4% of households having full fiber connections, according to government statistics.
The plan gives special attention to rural communities, which lack the existing infrastructure and interest from private companies for a more substantial broadband rollout. The government describes an "outside-in" strategy that allows network competition to serve commercially viable areas, while government investments will support "the most difficult to reach areas at the same time." It’s similar to the ongoing discussion in the U.S. about what role the government needs to play in bringing broadband to rural communities.
"We want everyone in the UK to benefit from world-class connectivity no matter where they live, work or travel," said the U.K.'s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Jeremy Wright in a statement.
TechCrunch points out that it’s unclear where the money for the full rollout will come from, especially given the high cost of bringing fiber networks to far-flung rural communities. Policy changes like incentives for new development and requirements to replace copper networks to fiber are easier done, but won’t achieve the desired result without government money or newfound private interest in rural communities.
The government has been aggressive on its 5G rollout, holding a spectrum auction in April that saw $2 billion in bids and seeking a test city that would experiment with infrastructure and applications of 5G. The test city competition has focused on mid-sized cities with around 500,000 people, a deliberate effort to apply and expand the technology outside of big cities. But the latest plan recognizes that fixed fiber will be a necessary component to a nationwide deployment of 5G, requiring investments and research on both fronts.