Government recommits to connectivity policy after Brexit

Government recommits to connectivity policy after Brexit [Image: matdesign24 via iStock]

Minister of state for digital and culture Matt Hancock has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to introducing broadband and 5G after the country exits the EU.

As part of its digital strategy, the government has committed to delivering full fibre broadband, the broadband universal service obligation and 5G mobile internet across the country. Speaking at the Connected Britain conference, Mr Hancock said that broadband was one of the most commonly raised topics during campaigning.

He said that the government supports the goal of high levels of UK connectivity, which will be delivered by commercial investment. He added that “we all know we need to do more”.

During his speech, Mr Hancock explained that the new parliament intended to do more to remove regulatory barriers that have resulted in it being uneconomic for industry to invest in fit-for-purpose networks. He said that the government was going to do more to work closely with regulator Ofcom on radio spectrum for 5G and infrastructure.

Speaking about Brexit, Mr Hancock said: “We continue to represent the UK’s interests in Europe for as long as we remain a member of the EU. The EU is currently reviewing its telecoms regulatory framework and it is crucial the future framework supports investment.

“We are working with allies across Europe and are fully participating in negotiations to get the best outcome for UK companies.”

However, not all companies were impressed by the news. Arqiva chief executive Simon Beresford-Wylie said that the government is still not setting the right aspirations for the country’s connectivity. He said this was particularly true in regards to 5G.

He explained that Arqiva intends to begin 5G field trials next month and that wider deployments were necessary. Mr Beresford-Wylie noted that the UK should be “in the first wave of ten to 15 countries” operating on 5G, adding that if it isn’t, it will lose competitiveness and face an exacerbated productivity crisis.