This week, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published its Future Telecoms Infrastructure review, (FTIR), a long-term strategy for digital communications, which proposes to step up the UK’s rollout of full fibre and 5G through driving competition and commercial investment; improving access for operators; and ensuring a switchover from copper to fibre by working with industry and Ofcom.
A strategy for full fibre roll out
Recommendations from the review include:
• Providing Operators with a ‘right to entry’ to flats, business parks, office blocks and other tenanted properties
• Reforms to the regulatory environment to drive investment and competition
• Public investment in full fibre for rural areas
• An industry led switchover from copper to full fibre coordinated with Ofcom;
• Easy access for Infrastructure (including pipes and sewers) owned by other utilities such as power, gas and water
Why does this matter?
We have previously blogged about the importance of a reliable digital infrastructure to UK manufacturers. To recap, the future of manufacturing and modern business in the UK requires reliable and resilient digital connections to support it. The copper based network that currently facilitates internet access throughout the UK is unable to deliver this.
Businesses often experience varying speeds and reliability to the internet through the current copper system, due to reasons such as large distances between businesses and the internet exchange point or street cabinets; the extent to which other users are accessing data in the area, wires disintegrating, and weather.
Some common concerns exist for businesses including the importance of rural connectivity, particularly on industrial sites, as well as city centre connectivity.
Businesses view reliable internet as a basic necessity, in much the same way they would look at any other utility. 91% of manufacturers agree that a high-speed internet connection is as important to business as electricity and water.
Only 4% of the country has access to full-fibre, compared to 99% in South Korea and 95% in Portugal.
What needs to happen next?
The review is a major step towards delivering the necessary full fibre digital network that industry needs to progress and embrace the 4th industrial revolution. Whilst significant steps are being taken, with Britain languishing far behind global competitors on full fibre availability, a plan detailing how to get from the recommendations in the review to tangible actions should be set.
This should include promptly bringing forward the required legislation to enact these changes swiftly, as well as detailing how government will go about giving direction to Ofcom and what metrics they will be using to track progress of the rollout and ensuring that UK manufacturers are not hindered in their attempts to boost productivity.
EEF as the voice of UK manufacturing will be playing an active role in setting out the needs of the manufacturing sector on this topic.