Improving UK gigabit infrastructure is essential to achieving post-COVID-19 growth

Superfast Broadband

A new EY report reveals that to meet the Chancellor’s lowered 2025 target for 85 per cent full-fibre coverage, the UK’s current average ‘build rate for homes passed’ – the rate at which properties are enabled on gigabit-capable networks – would need to increase by 85 per cent, equivalent to more than 10,000 homes per day.

In the Chancellor’s Spending Review in November, the Government reduced its target of gigabit broadband coverage from 100 per cent to 85 per cent by 2025.

Praveen Shankar, EY’s Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) for the UK & Ireland, said: “While the revised timeframe is more realistic, for that remaining 15 per cent of the population the risk of being left behind is greater than ever. A lack of high-quality digital infrastructure in the regions will limit the opportunity to rebalance and grow the UK economy in years to come. Without equal opportunities to access digital technology, long innovation and social cohesion to support the long-term ‘levelling up’ agenda in the UK will be affected.”

The report includes findings from a survey of 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and shows that UK businesses are in support of funding being allocated to digital infrastructure. Half of the respondents believe investment in gigabit connectivity is vital for the economic development of their region post COVID-19 and almost half state that gigabit connectivity would boost their business innovation. More than half said digital infrastructure is more important to them than physical infrastructure, with only 17 per cent disagreeing.

During the last year alone, the UK fell 13 places in the worldwide survey of broadband speeds, ranking just 47th globally.

Praveen Shankar added: “Urgent improvements to the UK’s digital infrastructure are not only essential for businesses to grow and thrive, but they are also required to secure long-term national competitiveness. Without significant attention on gigabit infrastructure, the UK risks falling further behind European neighbours.”

The report outlines coordinated actions for government, regulators and service providers to work together to unlock ‘Gigabit Britain’.

Adrian Baschnonga, Global Lead Telecommunications Analyst, EY says: “To deliver ‘Gigabit Britain’, Providers should underline the benefits of gigabit broadband for businesses and consumers alike – clear terminology and a simple customer promise can help drive up demand. Supply-side improvements are also essential, from optimising access and planning rules to creating more robust wholesale relationships within the industry. Crucially, the industry should recognise that this is a shared opportunity where proactivity and sustained collaboration is fundamental to success.

“Only by isolating key challenges and taking urgent actions to resolve them can the UK achieve its long-term digital infrastructure ambitions and unlock high-quality infrastructure for all users.”