The FTIR: Fit to deliver for 5G and full fibre four years on?
We are making progress and delivering on full fibre. Ofcom’s most recent analysis shows that over 11 million UK homes are now covered by full fibre – increasing rapidly from its previous analysis in 2021. This is a good news story to celebrate – but the hardest work is yet to come.
If the government is looking to kickstart its Growth Plan, it must prioritise delivering on the ambitions for the full rollout, and crucially adoption, of fibre across the UK. That is the message techUK’s telecoms members have shared in a new report examining the impact of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), published four years ago.
The FTIR set in place a policy framework that was highly effective in unleashing private investment for the fibre sector, with £33.2 billion helping to drive coverage from 6% to 41% of premises passed today. If government wants to focus on economic growth and innovation, reducing the friction for the remaining fibre rollout should be a major priority, along with boosting the rate of take-up of fibre services. techUK concludes that “the right framework is in place – it is now time to deliver”.
For 5G, the FTIR’s impact was mixed. Positively, the UK mobile sector has made significant progress on rolling out 5G. Coverage now ranges between 48-64% of premises covered by 5G from at least one provider, according to the latest Ofcom estimates.
But to fully realise the benefits of this advanced communications technology and learn the lessons of publicly funded programmes like 5G Testbeds and Trials, government must do more. techUK offers suggestions that the forthcoming Wireless Infrastructure Strategy should take to unlock investment and facilitate the rollout of standalone 5G.
While we acknowledge that the deployment of 5G and fibre technologies is continuing at pace, techUK outlines key recommendations to ensure the ongoing delivery, including:
- DCMS and the Home Office should introduce a specific visa targeted at telecoms workers to help support infrastructure businesses investing in growth.
- The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will be critical to accelerating the rollout of fibre and 5G, it must pass as soon as Parliamentary time allows.
- DCMS and the Department for Transport should redouble efforts to introduce the flexi permits regime so that it can be activated at the earliest opportunity.
- A government planning regime that genuinely underpins the emerging mobile infrastructure requirements of the future, including network densification and accelerated deployment models.
- Government must also identify further public sector use cases for 5G and fibre solutions to boost the transition to a digital-first government, unlock smarter procurement; and encourage take-up across the private sector.
Matthew Evans, Director for Markets, techUK said:
It’s great to see the progress made by the UK’s telecoms sector since the FTIR was published in 2018 – there has been positive progress in the face of significant challenges, and broadly it was the right framework. But in analysing the FTIR’s recommendations, our members have found that more is to be done. Barriers persist, and techUK looks forward to working with both government and Ofcom on smoothing the friction that remains for rolling out fibre and full 5G.
About the report
In summer 2022, techUK surveyed members of its Telecoms Infrastructure and Deployment Working Group to reflect on the original FTIR commitments (over 30 in total), and in the report, we summarise member views on what has worked, what hasn’t, what government is yet to deliver, and the consequences for the market. We structure the report as the original Review’s recommendations were structured:
- Full fibre connectivity (from ‘Reducing costs and barriers to deployment’ to ‘Ensuring world class connectivity for all’)
- A world leader in 5G (from ‘Make it easier and cheaper to deploy mobile infrastructure’ to ‘Securing a diverse set of innovative 5G services through spectrum policy’)
- Convergence of networks and markets
The year 2022 is a marked contrast from the 2018 in which the FTIR was launched: the economy was then buoyant and many of the issues happening now could not have been foreseen. techUK members have reflected on this challenging context in drafting these conclusions, as this context will be front and centre for the UK Government and its people. We are very conscious that the new ministers appointed in September 2022 will have a significant focus on measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
This report is also about delivery. It sets the direction on how government can help unleash private sector investment, which along with targeted public sector intervention, can build out the digital foundations for sustainable growth to all parts of the UK. techUK looks forward to engaging with government to take these actions forward as part of the Growth Plan.
Register for our FTIR event
2 November 2022: Join us for a breakfast meeting at techUK's office to discuss the impact of the FTIR, what’s worked, what hasn’t and crucially, what now needs to be done to maximise the benefits of rolling out fibre and 5G across the UK.