Full fibre and 5G with pockets of hyper connectivity are the future for Britain’s digital infrastructure as the volume of global internet traffic continues to sky-rocket, according to digital minister Matt Hancock.
He was speaking at the Broadband World Forum event at Excel in the Docklands telling a receptive audience that Britain had to “keep up”.
Data speeding around the world’s wires in 2020 will be 95 times that of 2005. Fixed internet traffic is set to double in the UK every two years.
He said: “We need the digital infrastructure that can support this – providing ubiquitous coverage so no-one is left out, and with sufficient capacity to ensure data can flow at the volume, speed and reliability required to meet the demands of modern life.”
He said the current part-fibre, part-copper infrastructure had brought superfast connectivity to the majority of the country, with 95% of the country seeing 24mbps next year.
“But the price we’ve paid for 95% superfast part-fibre broadband is that only 2% of premises have full fibre.
“Yet demand marches on. Over the time it’s taken to deliver on the superfast plan, people’s needs and expectations have risen further.”
But he said this need not come from Government coffers, citing the example of Hull where KCOM has provided full fibre to more than half its businesses and homes.
“Between May this year and the end of the next KCOM will have doubled the number of premises that can get full fibre. All this without Government subsidy.”
But Mr Hancock said there was a “clear role for Government, and we intend to play it”, mentioning setting the structure, experimentation and testing, reducing costs and “above all in leadership”.
He said: “The market will have to lead. But Government can support that by ensuring the right incentives are in place and any barriers are removed.”
Wi-fi on trains
He added: “We are also driving improvements in digital connectivity on rail routes, through the provision of free wi-fi on trains.
"Through a mix of government funding and franchise obligations we are on track to deliver free wi-fi for 90% of passenger journeys by the end of 2018, and almost 100% by 2020.
"To go further, colleagues in the Department for Transport are working to increase mobile connectivity for rail passengers by tackling rail “not-spots”. Our goal is continuous high quality connectivity on trains across the UK."
Councils want broadband tax
Meanwhile, councils have called on the Government to introduce a broadband social tariff to ensure those most in need have access to at least 10Mbps download speed at an affordable price.
The Local Government Association said such a tariff in the Government’s broadband universal service obligation would mean all households had the option to receive a subsidised service if they faced undue hardship in paying a market rate.