UK plans aggressive spend to upgrade broadband, wireless networks by 2020-21

By Jim O'Neill on Nov 23 2016 at 10:30 AM

The U.K. government is planning to spend more than $1.24 billion (£1.0 billion) to modernize the country’s digital infrastructure with the goal of full-fiber broadband and 5G wireless technology nationwide by 2020-21.

“Our future transport, business and lifestyle needs will require world class digital infrastructure to underpin them,” said Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Statement today. “My ambition is for the U.K. to be a world leader in 5G — that means a full fiber network, a step change in speed, security and reliability. So we will invest over £1BN in our digital infrastructure to catalyze private investment in fiber networks and to support 5G trials.”

Delivering that “gold standard” can’t come soon enough. The United Kingdom isn’t among the Top 10 countries in the world in terms of broadband speed, and just 2% of U.K. homes have access to full-fiber connections, mostly in urban areas where the return on investment is high enough to justify the cost of network development.

Hammond also said the government will create a $497 million (£400 million) fund – which will be matched by private funds – to spur emerging fiber broadband providers to scale up their operations.

The chancellor said an additional $931 million (£750 million) would go toward funding 5G trials.

Stay tuned.

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