As our internet demands have increasingly outpaced the UK’s current offering, pressure has grown on the government to make changes. Now, as the UK prepares to forge its own path without Europe, large-scale infrastructure rejuvenation is finally on the cards.
This week, Facebook announced that it will succeed its now-defunct Aquila programme by sending its own internet satellite into space, all in a bid to provide connectivity to un-serviced and under-serviced areas across the planet.
It’s the Silicon Valley giant’s proactivity in this arena – filled with the optimism, innovation and vigour – which UK business owners and unfortunate rural internet users have been demanding of our own government for some time. And over the next few years, we might just get our wish after all.
The internet has become an unavoidably integral part of our lives. From smartphones to workplace apps such as Slack and Xero helping to stimulate the small business economy, our way of life has become dependent on staying connected.
As we approach the deadline for leaving Europe, the UK’s reliance on the internet and its innovations is sure to increase, as we fight to carve a niche for ourselves in the global marketplace. In our current situation, however, we have a struggle on our hands.
Research published in 2017 showed that the UK was seriously lagging behind the majority of European countries when it came to internet speeds. Our humble average of 16.5Mbps saw us narrowly bested by the likes of Germany (18.8Mbps) and vastly out-gunned by Sweden’s impressive 40Mbps. Today, in updated research, our ranking has slipped to 35th.
If we’re to make a good impression on the rest of the world post-Brexit, we need to start here, with the resource that keeps us innovating.
Marking Plans for the Future
Almost a year on from the publication of this research, the government has released details on how it intends to up the ante and better connect the UK, starting with how we build new homes.
Although fibre has increased in visibility, only 4% of homes actually benefit from fibre broadband, with the rest relying on copper, and in some areas, a mixture. The downsides of a copper connection – one which has previously been favoured by the likes of Openreach – include the cost, lack of reliability, and ultimately slow connection, affecting businesses and residences alike.
To combat this, the government has pledged that fibre broadband will be in every home in the country by 2033 – news that is sure to come as a relief to anybody competing with slow internet speeds when trying to work from home, or trying to unwind with Netflix after a day at the office.
The government’s confident promises come as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports’ new National Telecoms Infrastructure Review. Aside from the proposed fibre broadband deadline of 2033, the document also outlines the government’s intentions for lowering the cost of deploying mobile infrastructure, as well as implementing a ‘5G Testbeds and Trial’ programme, in a move which will see the government stimulate growth in these areas.
But with such an ambitious and momentous set of projects in front of them, from where will change begin?
Putting a Plan into Action
The starting point of any such project must always be allocating funds and generating investment – after all, such large-scale change is sure to be expensive, and the public deserve to know the cost.
Whilst no exact figures have been pledged just yet, the government has outlined the need for ‘additional funding of around £3bn to £5bn’ to support commercial investment in the final 10% of areas. This approach is reportedly to help rural areas where the market ‘won’t be able to deliver alone’, and will keep such areas up to speed with developments elsewhere across the country.
As for enacting the strategy itself, the government are seemingly taking a step-by-step approach. The first of those steps is making fibre capabilities mandatory in all new-build houses, setting a future standard moving forward, as well as solving the problem before it arises.
Help from Further Afield
Meanwhile, Openreach is playing its own part in boosting the UK’s connectivity. Earlier this week, the firm – which is responsible for much of the country’s telecoms infrastructure – announced its plans to reduce the wholesale price of broadband in order to increase access to superfast services.
Working ahead of the government’s timetable, Openreach’s statement made it clear that they hoped to increase superfast access to all homes in the next five years through the price decrease. For internet service providers, such as Sky, the move is especially welcome, as it ties into their own plans for offering better services to customers.
Elsewhere, Ofcom reacted to the National Infrastructure Review by proposing changes to regulations which would help to support better broadband investment, and facilitate the government’s fibre-only ambitions.
According to early reports, regulatory changes will include differences in how Ofcom regulates markets in different areas of the country, as well as creating plans for greater accessibility to Openreach’s ducts and poles, and extending the duration of regulation from three to five years.
As Kaleida’s clients would surely agree, we’re better when we’re connected – to our friends, to our colleagues, and to our clients. It’s reassuring to see, then, that the government is taking concerns around the country’s connectivity seriously.
Over the next decade and beyond, I’m personally hopeful that we see the plans laid out in the recent Infrastructure Review come to fruition, and with the government gaining support from all corners on this approach, a positive outcome is looking increasingly likely.
Until then, however, the UK will have to demonstrate its scrappy spirit in other ways, and hope that our ranking doesn’t slip further than 35th – then we really will be in an uphill struggle.
Kaleida is a bespoke software development house which looks excitedly to the future of technology and innovation. Our bespoke software solutions keep clients connected, while staying one step ahead of their industry’s challenges, and working towards the same goals. To find out more, feel free to get in touch for a free software review.