Government Seeks Views On Future Of 5G, Fibre Broadband

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport consultations are to help determine how to shape a future of 5G and full-fibre networks

NetworksThe Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has launched a pair of consultations aimed at pushing forward its digital infrastructure plans around 5G mobile network pilot programmes and the deployment of fibre-optic networks across the country.

Launched on Tuesday, a call for views seeks responses on the appropriate scale and scope of the first 5G deployment pilots, including timescales, the amount of funding that would be appropriate and the methods by which funding should be allocated.

The 5G Testbeds and Trials programme launched a £25 million competition in October to fund initial test deployments of the technology, which is still in its earliest stages of development.

That “Phase 1” competition is intended to identify revenue streams and business models across the supply chain, and on Tuesday the DMCS announced a “Phase 2” programme that is to include funding for the first large-scale projects.

‘World-leading digital economy’

“The steps we are taking now are all part of our commitment to realising the potential of 5G, and will help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone,” said minister for digital Matt Hancock in a statement.

A separate call for evidence focuses on how the government should support long-term investment in 5G and fibre by determining what would attract investors.

The responses are to inform the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, to be published this summer. The review was announced last month in the Industrial Strategy, which set out the government’s plans to improve the UK’s productivity.

“The UK needs an integrated, long-term strategy for fixed and mobile networks and this review will determine what conditions will encourage the long term investment needed to secure world-class digital connectivity,” the DMCS stated.

A report from Ofcom last week found that the UK has full-fibre penetration of just 3 percent, lagging behind 18 other countries.

The study also found 10 million homes received poor broadband speeds, that full 4G coverage available in only 43 percent of the UK and that 30 percent of the country lacks full coverage for calls and text messages, prompting a call for “urgent and radical action” from the head of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

Poor broadband, 4G coverage

The NIC had said earlier this month that the UK needed to act on poor 4G coverage before it could be a leader in 5G.

Hancock said the government wants 10 million premises connected to fully fibre-optic links in the next decade, with a “clear path” to nation-wide coverage, and he said the upcoming review would help determine which competitive conditions would encourage the necessary investment.

On Tuesday the government also announced that Cambridge Wireless is to lead a 5G Innovation Network along with The Knowledge Transfer Network and TM Forum. The network is intended to help 5G organisations work together, to provide up-to-date information and establish a marketing brand to encourage inward 5G investment.

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