UK digital revolution at risk due to Government inertia

Posted on 14 Dec 2018 by Jonny Williamson

Digital connectivity offers unprecedented opportunities, but the government must take urgent action to ensure UK businesses can access the connectivity they need to thrive in today’s digital-driven economy.

Network cables closeup internet broadband fibre optic - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The UK’s digital economy is  already worth nearly £184bn – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The government’s ambitious target of rolling out 5G nationwide by 2027 and full fibre broadband by 2033 are likely to be unattainable without government action on funding and policy in 2019.

If government’s attention next year continues to be dominated by Brexit, like it has for the past 24 months, and domestic policy – such as that related to connectivity – remains side-lined, then firms of all sizes will be at risk of losing their competitive-edge on the world stage.

That’s the core message at the heart of the CBI’s latest report, Ready, Set, Connect.

The report highlights key actions for policymakers to deliver on their vision to achieve a ‘buffer-free’ digital future and make the UK the top place to start and grow a digital business.

These recommendations include:

  • Fast track laws that ensure every new property has access to gigabit broadband and give companies permission to access land or property to install connections for private tenants, by 2019
  • Ensure all new government infrastructure projects include full fibre broadband capacity by setting up a cross-government ‘Fibre and 5G Taskforce’
  • Turbo-charge 5G adoption by raising awareness of its uses to businesses and helping firms to learn more about how to better exploit the technology through government trials.

With the digital revolution already worth nearly £184bn, CBI UK chief policy director, Matthew Fell, said: “In today’s world, digital connectivity matters more than ever – if data is the new oil, then digital connectivity is the pipe that transports it. Seamless connections, from full fibre networks to 5G, offer unprecedented opportunities for businesses and consumers across the UK.”

On the national roll-out of 5G, Fell commented: “Businesses are using digital infrastructure in new ways, and it is changing people’s lives by enabling new technologies, reducing costs and allowing people to work more flexibly.

“As a game-changing technology, 5G can also help raise UK productivity. Now’s the time to capitalise on the UK’s leading research base, become a global exporter of this technology and how to adopt it well.”

According to the CBI, world-class 5G technology could potentially add a further £173bn to the UK economy by 2030, but in order to do so the postcode lottery felt by most rural communities must come to an end.

On making all new builds gigabit-ready in 2019, Fell concluded: “Communication service providers are chomping at the bit to upgrade the UK’s digital infrastructure, but access to private properties have become a real barrier.

“With businesses often noting that it takes significant time for new connections to be installed, they ask why not install full fibre cables simultaneously alongside new property developments. We’re wasting precious time and surrendering our competitive advantage if we don’t install the utilities of the future right now.

“That’s why the government must make gigabit internet connectivity in new builds a legal minimum by the end of 2019.”