The Government has highlighted the significance of public sector organisations in the roll out of fibre networks around the UK, with a new review saying they can act as anchor tenants for networks and make their assets available to support deployment.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), sets out a target to connect 15 million premises to full fibre broadband by 2025 and provide nationwide coverage by 2033. It also emphasises the importance of this in underpinning the spread of 5G networks.
The review acknowledges the problems in deploying networks to rural areas, and says the Government will respond with an ‘outside-in’ strategy. This will involve it supporting investment in the most difficult to reach areas – with £200 million already identified for the effort – while network providers will compete to serve the more commercially viable areas.
It points to progress from the Local Full Fibre Network Programme, with measures such as targeted funding to local bodies for public sector connectivity, and using hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries as anchor tenants for networks that can then provide local homes and businesses with connections.
The review says the programme should continue to explore new approaches for aggregating public sector demand, and that authorities should make their assets available to support the networks.
DCMS has developed a Digital Infrastructure Toolkit to support the process, applying to all non-specialised central government buildings, although it has said it can be used to share best practice with local authorities and arm’s length bodies.
The conclusions of the review will feed into the Statement of Strategic Priorities for communications regulator Ofcom, and the Government plans to hold consultations on proposed legislative changes to support the deployment.
Other elements of the plans include: new legislation to guarantee full fibre connections to new build developments; reforms to the regulatory environment to drive investment and competition; a nationwide framework for the management of relevant streetworks; increased access to the spectrum for innovative 5G services; and utilising infrastructure owned by public utilities for fixed and mobile use.
DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright said: “This radical new blueprint for the future of telecommunications in this country will increase competition and investment in full fibre broadband, create more commercial opportunities and make it easier and cheaper to roll out infrastructure for 5G.
“The FTIR’s analysis indicates that, without change, full fibre broadband networks will at best only ever reach three quarters of the country, and it would take more than 20 years to do so. It also indicates that 5G offers the potential for an expansion of the telecoms market, with opportunities for existing players and new entrants.”
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