Out-Law News 1 min. read

UK government review seeks to spur industry investment in future telecoms infrastructure

A new review will be conducted by the UK government in a bid to spur greater investment from telecoms companies into new telecoms infrastructure, such as 'full fibre' and '5G' networks.

The cross-government Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review is being led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The department said that it wants to understand "what makes investment in full fibre and 5G networks attractive". It intends to issue a report next summer at the end of the review which it said would "identify options available to government to promote an attractive and stable environment for investment".

According to the terms of reference for the review (2-page / 84KB PDF), the government will look to identify "the barriers to investment in digital infrastructure and next-generation digital connectivity, now and over the coming decades including cost, levels of demand, market structures and regulation".

The government will also seek to understand "how investment incentives vary between different areas of the UK and across different parts of the telecoms market" as well as "what policy changes government should consider to encourage greater investment in new digital infrastructure". One option that could be considered to encourage such investment is "direct government intervention", it said.

"Whilst the UK is an international leader in the availability of copper-based super-fast broadband it must improve its performance on the deployment of full fibre networks, to support the connectivity of homes and businesses and provide the backbone for a denser 5G mobile network and underpin economic growth," the government said. "The government’s approach to achieving these goals is to encourage markets to deliver commercially across all areas of the UK."

"We want to build on what has been achieved so far, by ensuring that market and policy conditions are as good as they can be to support investor confidence and maximise investment in full fibre and new technologies. The government will undertake an in-depth review of the telecoms market, to understand companies’ incentives for investment in new digital infrastructure, establishing a clear evidence base to determine what, if any, additional policy interventions may be needed to deliver government’s objectives, whilst promoting a stable environment for investment," it said.

Industry, investors and other stakeholders will be invited to share their views on the issues as part of the review. DCMS said it would shortly open a call for evidence as part of the review.

In September, the government announced that public funds would be used to support the testing of 'full fibre' broadband networks in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, west Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol and Bath and north east Somerset, west Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

At the moment, copper wires often carry the data transmitted over broadband networks in the so-called 'last mile' of connectivity to properties. However, 'full fibre' networks involve connecting those properties up to the network using fibre optic cables. These provide for far greater bandwidth that the copper wires.

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