The Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) pledged its support to UK Chancellor Philip Hammond’s full-fibre broadband targets – and called on the Government and telecoms industry to ensure a collaborative approach.
Speaking at the annual CBI dinner, Hammond pledged to make full-fibre connections available to most homes and businesses by 2025 to help Britain thrive in the post-Brexit economy. Some experts have already cast doubt on the plans, saying small and mid-sized towns would miss out.
But INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett believes the plan is achievable with the right approach.
“There is no reason why most of the UK cannot be served by full fibre and our members are fully supportive of making this happen,” he said. “However, there are steps that need to be taken in order to make Philip Hammond’s goal a realistic one. For one, we need to see more collaboration between the industry’s big players, such as BT Openreach and Virgin Media, and the altnets, to enable a future-proof digital infrastructure to be built quickly.
“We have no doubt that there is investment available to deliver future-proof connectivity across Britain but there are many challenges and barriers to digital transformation. The Government can help a lot by taking a more co-ordinated approach between departments involved with local government, planning, transport and utilities.”
According to Corbett, INCA’s members have already revealed plans to invest in new full fibre and high-speed wireless networks. By 2025, they aim to reach more than 14 million premises – 50% of the UK – with full fibre.
A recent report by INCA and Point Topic showed the altnet sector currently reaches 1 million premises with full fibre and up to a further 2 million with wireless broadband services.
These latest figures place altnets collectively as the third competitor in new full fibre infrastructure provision, alongside BT Openreach and Virgin Media. The altnet sector has been buoyed by announcements of more than £2.5 billion of private sector investment and a supportive public policy environment.
“A properly competitive, healthy and functional broadband market ultimately means the UK will achieve its full fibre and 5G goals much faster than simply relying on incumbent networks,” said Corbett. “With the right continued support, the altnets will have a very big role to play in meeting the UK’s digital infrastructure targets.”
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