The telecoms industry has welcomed Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a £5 billion investment to introduce gigabit-capable broadband across the whole of the UK.
The investment confirms a pledge by the Conservatives at the election to bring full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in Britain within five years.
Andrew Glover, chair of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), said the £5 billion promised was “a welcome first step”, but added that the “increased funding alone will not allow the industry to get the job done”.
“Broadband rollout is largely privately funded and in order to provide industry with a chance to meet the Government’s 2025 ambition, today’s announcements need to be backed up with further reform on wayleaves, new build legislation, action on street works and further investment into digital and engineering skills,” he said.
“The broadband industry is ready to get the job done, but needs the full support from Government to do so.”
Greg Mesch, chief executive of fibre network infrastructure provider CityFibre, said competition in the sector was needed to ensure all areas of the country were covered.
“Britain is a service-based economy that runs off the internet, and the internet works best on full-fibre. This technology is creating a digital infrastructure that will enable more 5G network services, smart cities, and will establish a platform the country needs to thrive in the future,” he said.
“However, in order to fully achieve this, we need competition to ensure the full fibre rollout in cities and towns across the country continues at speed and no place is left behind.”
Tristia Harrison, chief executive of TalkTalk, agreed that competition between providers was crucial to the success of the rollout, as well as cooperation between firms to help ensure all parts of the UK were reached by the investment.
“Investment in levelling up and Britain’s full-fibre future is vital, so today’s Budget measures are hugely welcome, particularly getting to harder to reach areas that have been left behind for too long,” she said.
“But for Government to reach its full-fibre rollout target, three things are vital: the consumer – so prices are fair; competition – so the £5 billion rural subsidy doesn’t end in one company’s hands; co-operation within industry to deliver for the whole country.
“As the only major telco to have relocated our whole business to the North of England – we congratulate Government on today’s investment and say to other businesses, ‘come on up’.”
MPs are also set to scrutinise the Government’s plans, with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee announcing last week it is to launch an inquiry into the feasibility of the plans.
DCMS committee chairman Julian Knight said: “The Government has said it wants to achieve this nationwide roll-out by 2025.
“We’ll be carrying out a reality check to find out what steps must be taken now if this target is to be reached.”