2019 must be a year of “rapid uptake” for UK connectivity

Posted on 13 Feb 2019 by Maddy White

The UK digital economy is worth nearly £184bn and the size of the digital connectivity prize has never been bigger. To maintain this momentum the UK needs to seamlessly integrate 5G, and fast.

Digital connectivity offers unprecedented opportunities - image courtesy of Depositphotos. 5G
Digital connectivity offers unprecedented opportunities – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Digital connectivity offers unprecedented opportunities for businesses and consumers across Britain. 

According to CBI research, 94% of businesses believe that digital technologies are a crucial driver of increased productivity. Over half of firms are investing in IoT and 42% of companies are planning to devote resources to adopting AI in the next five years.

Businesses are looking to upgrade the UK’s digital networks to utilise these technologies, and better connectivity could also help to drive the UK’s international competitiveness.

The British government has set out an ambitious vision to future-proof digital infrastructure. This means rolling out 5G nationwide by 2027 and full fibre by 2033.

CBI’s ‘Ready, Set, Connect’ reports that the government must deliver on its vision to achieve a buffer-free fibre and 5G future by stepping up to the scale of change required. This means delivering policy at a digital pace. Otherwise the UK risks a growing “digital divide” that could leave British businesses trailing behind.

The core benefits of 5G will include:

  • Increased data capacity and speeds, with potentially 100x speeds and the ability to connect billions of devices with reliable connections
  • Improved coverage across the UK
  • Applications like autonomous transport and remote surgery can have access to instantaneous insights and react immediately 

CBI recommendations for gov’t include:

  • Get businesses ready for 5G adoption by raising awareness of its uses and how firms can use it 
  • Fast-track laws for firms to install internet connections in existing homes for private tenants and ensuring all new properties have full fibre or other gigabit cables installed when they’re built
  • Equip all new train lines and other transport projects with full fibre cables

Digital connectivity is a “business basic”

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “There’s is a real risk that 2019 will be a year in which we overlook the rest of our economy.

“There’s already a digital divide in rural areas across the UK. Our ability to enjoy world-class digital connectivity shouldn’t be determined by where we live or work. It’s not just a social case for national coverage, but a clear economic one.

“Businesses have already invested heavily in digital infrastructure. In fact, the private sector will provide most of the £33bn total investment needed to deliver full fibre networks across the UK. But government must help firms access those hard to reach areas.”

He explained that 2019 must be a year of “rapid uptake.” First by extending support for businesses to help small firms adopt existing technologies like 4G and full fibre. And second, by expanding trials in new technology like 5G so businesses understand how seamless connectivity can improve their operation. He added: “Because in today’s world, digital connectivity is not just a nice to have, it’s a business basic.”

5G trial starts

The UK’s first live 5G factory trials are beginning at the Worcestershire 5G testbed today.

The trials mark the first time that British industry has deployed this next generation technology and it is set to completely transform the way the sector operates.

The tests allow manufacturers to see the potential of 5G investments – from factory floor production, reconfiguration and real-time analysis, to steering a machine’s movements from a remote location.

World-leading engineering company Worcester Bosch is testing 5G for improved factory output, exploring preventative maintenance utilising IoT sensors and data analytics to predict failure. Leading global manufacturer Yamazaki Mazak is also using 5G to conduct trials.

The trials will test end-to-end application performance, taking initial measures of 5G speeds and latency.

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