UK Gov reserves £6.8bn to realise 5G dream by 2027

The UK Government has released a report which outlines £600 billion investments in national infrastructure, including £6.8 billion to make 5G a reality by 2027 and nationwide full fibre coverage by 2033.

The National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline 2018 is much more than digital infrastructure, though it is nice to see a hefty chunk of change being directed towards tomorrow’s connectivity challenges. Over the next three years, the plan is to fund 11 digital infrastructure projects and programmes with a total value of £6.8 billion nationwide full fibre coverage by 2033 and 5G deployment to the majority of the country by 2027.

What is worth noting is not all of this cash will be coming from the public coffers. Of the total, it appears the government will be providing £700 million of new investment, while the rest will be sourced from private investment and public-private partnerships, or has already been allocated.

Some of the projects noted in the pipeline include Virgin Media’s Project Lightning (which won’t receive any public funding), BDUK’s rural full-fibre programme will receive £200 million across the three years, while £529 million will be directed towards 700 MHz Clearance Programme, which is expected to be completed by May 2020.

It might also be worth noting these are not new projects, and not all of them will be receiving additional funding. This report seems to be an effective summary of the major programmes and initiatives the government is involved in.

“We are committed to renewing our infrastructure to drive economic growth in all parts of the United Kingdom,” said the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick. “Over the course of this Parliament, investment in economic infrastructure will reach the highest sustained levels in over 40 years. And as the pace of technological change accelerates, we are stepping up our commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to drive greater productivity and embrace new methods of construction.”

In terms of the programmes which have been identified, they are as follows:

  1. Virgin Media’s Project Lightning, a project to extend the firm’s fibre-rich network to approximately four million additional premises over the next five years. This project will receive £1.8 billion in funding over the three years, though none will come directly from public coffers
  2. The 700 MHz Clearance Programme, which aims to clear this important frequency band for mobile broadband and compensate current license holders for the loss of spectrum, will have £529 million, all of which will come from direct government investment
  3. BT’s FTTP and 4G expansion plans will receive $3 billion, all of which will come from private investment or public-private partnerships
  4. Various alt-nets, such as CityFibre or HyperOptic, will receive funds through private investment or public-private partnerships totalling £1.5 billion
  5. Mobile upgrade work has been highlighted, costing a total of $4 billion from 2017-2021, though the government will only be contributing £34 million
  6. BDUK’s superfast broadband programme will receive £337 million across the three years, though it is worth noting this is a longer-term programme which has been receiving funding since 2012
  7. The Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, has already received £400 million, which will be matched by private bodies, to invest in new fibre networks over the next 4 years
  8. BDUK’s local broadband programme has been included but it will not receive any additional funds through the next three years
  9. As with above, BDUK’s rural programme will not receive any additional funds
  10. The 5G test beds and trials have also been included in the list, though it seems the £200 million already allocated is deemed sufficient
  11. CityFibre’s full fibre programme will receive £2.5 billion in funds, though this is through private investment or public-private partnerships, and this investment has already been accounted for in previous years

The report is essentially a report card to hand out to various stakeholders to give greater transparency into how the government is spending tax-payers cash. With the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review unveiled in July, and promising great things for this small island, it is nice to get a bit more clarity on how the grand connectivity ambitions are going to be realised.