The Chancellor of the United Kingdom, Philip Hammond, yesterday gave his first Autumn Statement 2016 and revealed a bit of extra detail about the plan to encourage investment worth £1bn+ towards the roll-out of ultrafast pure fibre optic broadband (FTTP/H) and 5G Mobile. Business rates will also be cut.
Some highlights from the Statement include:
Announcement of a new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which is to be supported by £400m of public money and this could grow to nearly £1.5bn (over the life of the scheme by 2021) once matching support from the private sector is factored. The fund promotes a clear focus on Alternative Network (AltNet) ISPs that can offer pure fibre optic networks
A new 100% business rates relief for new full-fibre infrastructure for a 5 year period from 1 April 2017; this is designed to support roll out to more homes and businesses
A new funding provision is to be introduced for local areas to support investment in a much bigger fibre ‘spine’ across the UK, prioritising full-fibre connections for businesses and bringing together public sector demand. The government will work in partnership with local areas to deliver this, and a call for evidence on delivery approaches will be published shortly after the Autumn Statement.
Elsewhere local authorities will also be able to bid for a slice of £740 million, which is intended to help them both trial and roll-out future ultrafast 5G based Mobile Broadband networks (note: the final technology standard for this won’t be ready until around 2017/18 and spectrum will not be fully released until 2020).
All of this will also help to keep the UK competitive with the new EU commitment, which recently set a target for “all European households” to be within reach of a minimum Internet download speed of 100Mbps+ by 2025, with businesses and the public sector being told to expect 1Gbps+. However the UK has yet to paint such a specific goal for its own ultrafast plans.
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