New Investment to Boost 5G Connectivity in the UK

New Investment to Boost 5G Connectivity in the UK

New plans and investment to boost digital connectivity and put the UK at the forefront of future telecoms technologies have been unveiled by Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan today (Tuesday 11 April) – unlocking growth, innovation and potential across the country.

As part of the new Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, the government has set out its ambitions to blanket the country with the fastest, most reliable wireless coverage available—with an ambition for all populated areas to be covered by ‘standalone’ 5G (what some companies call 5G-plus) by 2030. 77% of the population already has access to basic 5G from one provider.

This next iteration of 5G coverage across the country will unlock new technologies that will change lives and the way businesses operate, at a time when connectivity is significantly evolving and is woven further into the lives of us all. From driverless vehicles to robots and drones on the factory floor to making cities smarter, cleaner, and less congested, innovation is set to be supercharged.

This announcement also commits £8 million to delivering high-speed broadband to up to 35,000 of the UK’s most remote properties. Under the new scheme, homes and businesses in the most remote areas that are unable to be connected to gigabit-capable broadband will be given funding to link them up to satellites orbiting the globe, giving them a broadband connection that will be up to ten times faster than what is currently available to them.

Additionally, a £40 million 5G innovation fund will promote investment and adoption of 5G by businesses and public services, helping them unlock opportunities to use advanced wireless connectivity and generating value, innovation, and growth at a local level.

To help spur mass adoption of 5G across the country, the strategy sets out a clear pro-investment framework for mobile network operators by driving down deployment costs and improving demand. The government has also confirmed that there is no ‘magic number’ of mobile operators, while noting that all decisions on consolidation are for the Competition and Markets Authority.

The UK is due to hit 75% gigabit broadband coverage this month, up from just 6% in 2019, and is on track to deliver 99% by 2030.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

Our Wireless Infrastructure Strategy sets out our plan to ensure everyone, no matter where they live, can reap the benefits of improved connectivity. We are doing this by ensuring all populated areas in the UK will be served by what I call "5G-plus" technology by 2030. We are also committing £8 million to provide satellite connectivity for our most remote communities, so that no one is left behind.

We are also supporting long-term economic growth in the UK with a £40 million fund to encourage innovative 5G investment across the private and public sectors. This will help industries transform at a time when the ways we communicate, work, and do business are on the cusp of significant evolution.

This package of measures turbocharges our progress towards becoming a science and tech superpower with a substantial initial investment in the future of telecoms. We want to ensure that 6G is developed to meet the needs of people and businesses right across the UK and bolster our international competitiveness throughout the entire economy.

Future telecoms mission

The government has also announced a new long-term national mission to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of both adopting and developing 6G, the future of digital connectivity. As part of a fully-fledged 6G strategy, the government will ensure that the next generation of mobile connectivity meets the needs of people and businesses across the UK.

The government has committed up to £100 million of funding initially to shape and drive early-stage research into 6G and influence global standard-setting. The UK will work closely with allies to deliver this mission, ensuring they are influential in shaping the global landscape, embedding values into future telecoms technology, and protecting security interests. This will support the UK’s drive to become a science superpower, as set out in the Science and Technology Framework.

Accelerating broadband rollout

The UK government is putting in place new plans to speed up the deployment of faster internet connectivity through work with the local authorities and the telecoms industry to further trial the use of flexible permits for roadworks to install fiber in a number of areas.

Spectrum Statement

Spectrum is the invisible electromagnetic waves that enable all wireless technology, from mobile phones, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth devices to aircraft navigation and satellite applications, amongst many other uses. The devices and services that depend on spectrum now underpin almost every aspect of economic and social lives.

As spectrum becomes more critical to UK strategic priorities, from communications and broadcasting to space and defense, the government’s priorities in a new spectrum statement have also been laid out.

This will mean better connectivity for people across the UK and better access to spectrum to support new enterprise applications that will drive the economic growth, productivity, and improved public services of tomorrow.

Notes for editors

A range of industry figures have put their support behind the announcement.

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK, said:

Mobile UK welcomes the government’s Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, which recognizes the challenges faced by operators in rolling out full 5G. We are encouraged by the commitment to ensure net neutrality regulations are fit for purpose, a role for public investment in 5G, and a call to Ofcom to review annual spectrum fees.

World-class mobile connectivity must be based on a framework that incentivizes investment; this strategy marks an encouraging first step along that road, and we will work with the government to ensure this is what it delivers.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, said:

This strategy is an important step in creating the right environment for long-term infrastructure investments and enhancing the quality of the UK’s telecom networks. To achieve the UK’s ambitions for productivity, growth, prosperity, and net zero goals, wireless infrastructure will play a central role. We cannot afford to miss out on the benefits that the next generation of advanced communications services will deliver for the UK’s consumers and businesses. techUK’s members look forward to working with the government on the strategy’s details, especially in increasing adoption and take-up of telecoms services.

UKRI Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn GladdenEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said:

The world is increasingly connected, and telecommunications technologies are continually reshaping our lives. From how we work, socialize, and entertain to underpinning national infrastructure, the future of telecommunications will have wide-reaching impacts. This new funding will catalyze important research and innovation that helps the UK make the most of this potential, unlocking economic growth for the next generation.

Howard WatsonBT Group Chief Security and Networks Officer, said:

We welcome the new ambitions set out today, which will need both significant new private sector investment and some ambitious policy reforms. We are keen to work with the government on all the issues they identify: removing barriers to new infrastructure, ensuring networks and spectrum are used as efficiently as possible, and realizing the country’s full digital potential.

Ericsson Katherine Ainley, CEO, Ericsson UK & Ireland, said:

We welcome the launch of the new Wireless Infrastructure Strategy and the government’s initiatives to accelerate 5G adoption and 6G research in the UK. The announcement highlights the government’s recognition of the huge economic opportunities offered by advancing mobile connectivity across the country. Through connectivity, we can unlock truly ground-breaking innovation that will transform industries and create a more connected, safer, and sustainable world. Ericsson has been connecting the UK for more than 120 years, and our multi-million-pound investment in a 6G research program last year reflects our determination to make the UK a digital leader for decades to come. We are delighted that the government shares this ambition.

Click here to learn more about the UK's wireless infrastructure strategy.

Publisher: everything RF