Questions over Conservative pledge to provide “gigabit-capable” broadband to all by 2025
One of the pledges in the 2019 Conservative election manifesto was a repeat of a previous one – to kit out the whole UK with “gigabit-capable” broadband by the year 2025, and now with a majority in Boris Johnson’s hand, attentions turn to how this will be implemented.
£5 billion will be pledged toward the project, which will be used to help the gold standard of broadband roll out to those in the hardest to reach areas of the country.
The manifesto itself reads: “Connecting the UK is not just about transport. We are Europe’s technology capital, producing start-ups and success stories at a dazzling pace. But not everyone can share the benefits. We intend to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025.
“We know how difficult it will be, so we have announced a raft of legislative changes to accelerate progress and £5 billion of new public funding to connect premises which are not commercially viable.”
The delivery of the Tory broadband strategy still requires some clarity.
Whether the finances add up will depend on what is set to be included as “gigabit-capable” under the pledge, after the government decided not to pursue Boris Johnson’s target during the Tory leadership campaign of delivering full-fibre to all households by 2025, following criticism from the industry.
Having changed tack from requiring that buildings be connected to exchanges via their own fibre links, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has switched focus to simply promising gigabit speeds only. The legislation also promises to include an earlier pledge to make it easier for broadband providers to install the necessary equipment in blocks of flats when landlords fail to respond to their requests, and require "virtually all" new-build developments to include gigabit-capable connections.
The new “gigabit-capable” pledge may, therefore, stretch out to include 5G, Virgin Media’s cable network, and FTTP/H.
With the uncertainty surrounding how the “gigabit-capable” pledge may come about, it is safe to assume that a wider pledge in the manifesto, guaranteeing the provision of “greater mobile coverage across the country” seems more realistic.
It is likely that this promise refers to a £1billion industry-led agreement on mobile coverage announced earlier this year, aimed toward extending 4G coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2025, a project to which the Conservative government has pledged £500 million.
The rest of the funding will come from industry giants EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, who are collaborating on the project. Masts are set to be built in remote areas to provide coverage where there has been none before.