UK ‘won’t achieve full fibre by 2025’, warns thinktank

UK ‘won’t achieve full fibre by 2025’, warns thinktank

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A UK thinktank has poured cold water on the British government’s aspirations to achieve nationwide gigabit broadband coverage by 2025.

The Social Market Foundation says that the Government is unlikely to meet its target of full fibre to the premises (FTTP) rollout within the next five years without significant policy reforms.

The UK is “lagging far behind other economies on FTTP broadband penetration, including Spain, New Zealand and South Korea”, says the report.

Boris Johnson, now prime minister of the UK, set out his ambition to deliver “full fibre broadband to every home in the land” by 2025 in his 2019 campaign to lead the ruling Conservative Party. The Conservative Party’s manifesto for the December 2019 general election repeated this commitment.

The foundation warns: “The timeline and extent of high speed broadband coverage set out by the government is ambitious; analysis undertaken in this report shows that at present full FTTP broadband coverage stands at just 14% across the country as a whole, highlighting the mountain to be climbed.”

The report says that it will cost £300-£400 to provide FTTP for half of the UK’s premises, but £4,000 for each of the final 10%. “One estimate suggests the [total] costs are about £30 billion. Much of the cost of rolling out FTTP will come from private investment.”

Earlier this year the UK government intends said it intends to provide £5bn of support for the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the most difficult to reach 20% of the country.

The report questions “the extent to which this approach will meet the government’s ambitions of nationwide full fibre coverage by 2025, or whether incentives to invest in full fibre are too weak”.

It says: “More needs to be done by central and local government to reduce the costs of full fibre rollout, and in turn the costs faced by households and businesses from the rollout.” It adds: “Government should adopt the approach suggested by the National Infrastructure Commission of appointing local authority digital champions. These champions would act as a single point of contact for telecommunications companies in local areas, and create efficiencies in processes such as granting permission for street works.”

The report advises: “Central and local government should commit to purchasing full fibre broadband services, as a means of providing some certainty of demand for such products. This should be complemented with efforts to demonstrate the benefits of full fibre broadband to businesses and consumers.”