The UK Government today launched the UK Digital Strategy which sets out Government’s plans on how it will build on the UK’s success to date to develop a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. In recognising the importance of the UK’s communications infrastructure, Part 1 of the Strategy focuses on "Connectivity - building world-class digital infrastructure for the UK".
Raj Sivalingam, techUK’s Executive Director of Telecoms and Spectrum commented: “We welcome UK Government’s Digital Strategy which rightly recognises the importance of the UK’s communications infrastructure. As the UK looks towards a post-Brexit environment, Britain’s key differentiator will be in being recognised as having a world-leading standard of connectivity. Key components of this ambition will be in incentivising investment and innovation and reducing regulatory burdens to enable world class digital connectivity in each of urban, rural, transport and in-building environments. techUK’s Communications Infrastructure Programme has a number of initiatives underway which will contribute to the strategy’s aims.”
The UK Digital Strategy reconfirms the announcements made in the Autumn Statement regarding the investment of £400 million in a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (to be matched by private sector investors), and the allocation of £740m funding for a coordinated programme of integrated fibre and 5G trials. It also confirmed that a 5G Strategy, which will set out the UK Government’s vision and steps needed to take to for the next generation of mobile connectivity, will be published at Spring Budget 2017.
In ensuring the conditions that encourage investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure, Government has also identified how it aims to use regulation to make it faster and cheaper for operators to build and develop digital infrastructure. Acknowledging that the UK’s regulatory framework needs to recognise and support the fact that the infrastructure required to deliver connectivity is converging - particularly relating to preparations for the roll out of 5G - the Strategy highlights: Access to Infrastructure Regulations; reforms to mobile planning laws in England to reduce planning requirements; reforms to the Electronic Communications Code, made through the Digital Economy Bill; and exploring options around planning and wayleave agreements to make it easier to build digital infrastructure.
The Strategy also highlights specific initiatives such as the establishment of a new Business Connectivity Forum, chaired by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is aimed to enable collaboration between business organisations, local authorities and communications providers to develop specific solutions to the issues faced by businesses in accessing fast, affordable, reliable broadband.
As the UK trade association for the digital technologies industries, techUK’s Communications Infrastructure Programme is already undertaking a number of initiatives that will contribute to the UK Digital Strategy’s aims:
- 5G applications: techUK has worked with members which provide a range of communications infrastructure to develop a paper highlighting why 5G matters, the services and use cases which 5G is designed to address, and obstacles to address if the UK is to be a 5G leader.
- Rail connectivity: techUK is bringing together the telecom and ICT industry stakeholders, wireless technology suppliers and academia to provide cross-industry expertise on improved digital connectivity for rail operations, in collaboration with DfT, Network Rail, Association of Train Operators (Rail Delivery Group) and RSSB.
- Industry-Local Government roundtables: techUK is launching a series of Industry-Local Government roundtables – the first of which is on 17 March - aimed at building mutual understanding and collaboration (eg. on planning permissions and way leaves) to pave the way for the new communications infrastructure such as 5G and fibre networks.
- Building for broadband: Working with the buildings and facilities community later in 2017, techUK will facilitate a greater degree of shared understanding and collaboration between the communications industry, and the buildings and facilities sectors on how building(s) can be made more conducive to broadband.
More information is available on techUK’s Communications Infrastructure Programme and activities.
Find out what techUK's different programmes believe is important for the sector below.