Government to invest in faster UK broadband speeds

Chancellor Phillip Hammond will announce the Government’s plans to invest £740 million in fibre broadband 5G in Wednesday’s Autumn statement. 

According to Government figures, only 2 per cent of the UK currently has access to ‘full-fibre’ internet connections.This investment will support the growth of fibre broadband providers, giving a much needed boost to a population that – in rural areas – gets slower download speeds than Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. 

He will announce £400 million in funding as part of the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund. Private investors will be called upon to match this sum, as the Government moves forward with its commitment to provide the UK with faster broadband. 

BT chairman Sir Mike Rake told the Today programme: “We are committed to getting fibre to the premise ultimately, which is the long-term game, because it’s much more reliable. “

Rake also said up to 12 million homes in the UK would have download speeds of 300Mbps by 2020.

Chief executive of CityFibre, Greg Mesch, also welcomed the chancellor’s announcement: “Britain’s industrial strategy needs a digital backbone, and it is essential that we move quickly to plugthe UK’s ‘fibre gap’ and empower our service-based economy.” 

There is currently no confirmed launch date for 5G in the UK, however fibre connections are already being provided by a handful of independent broadband suppliers such as B4rn, Gigaclear, and Hyperoptic.

Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent, said that one of the most interesting aspects of this proposal is that the investment will go to ISPs outside of the traditional big names: “The new money the government is promising will go to small operators rather than BT – and even if it does get to 2 million homes and businesses as promised, the UK is likely to remain a laggard in the full-fibre race. 

“It will still be mainly up to BT to give the country the future-proof infrastructure it needs – and the government will be hoping that increased competition makes it up its game.”

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