Digital infrastructure5G & MobileGovernment’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review welcomed

Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review welcomed

CEO Malcolm Corbett says new report reinforces the central role altnets will play in realising new digital networks

The Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) has been welcomed by the sector.

The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) has offered support for FTIR and welcomed the emphasis placed on full-fibre, 5G and the role alternative network operators (altnets) play.

Designed to transform the UK telecoms industry, the FTIR aims to open up access to world-class connectivity, regardless of where users are geographically located. It is hoped that this move will ignite new channels of competition within the UK telecoms industry and provide transitions for emerging technologies such as 5G.

INCA’s CEO Malcolm Corbett said the support for competitive market deployment of new networks, the ‘outside-in’ approach to ensure rural areas are not left behind, and call for better mechanisms to allow consumers and service providers to easily switch to better network infrastructures will prove to be particularly beneficial.

“We welcome the Government’s FTIR and expect it to encourage the deployment of new networks to boost UK-wide competition, leading to wider coverage and much better services for consumers,” said Corbett. “It is significant that rural areas are now getting the recognition they deserve when it comes to high-speed connectivity and with the ‘outside in’ approach being taken, we feel confident that the FTIR will make a positive and well-received impact nationwide.”

Corbett was also pleased to see recommendations to provide better access to existing passive infrastructure from Openreach and other utilities, which he said will reduce the cost of deployments. Increased industry collaboration to allow operators to extend their fibre footprints by working together and a proposal that would require Openreach to publish its deployment plans in full were also welcomed by INCA, as was the continued emphasis on the need to reduce barriers to new network deployments such as wayleaves and street works.

“Traditionally, collaborative approaches were met with caution in case they breached competition laws but, as the FTIR rightly notes, this has not prevented such agreements being developed elsewhere in the EU,” added Corbett, “With such a big job to do to replace the ageing copper network, it makes sense to encourage more collaboration amongst all industry players.”

With the report’s emphasis on 5G, Corbett said a big bonus in the FTIR was the proposal for Ofcom to consider different approaches to spectrum access, including the 3.6-3.8Ghz band, that can help improve the investment case for rural fixed wireless broadband services.

Just last month, UKWISPA and INCA highlighted how important new approaches to spectrum allocation would be following the ‘High performance wireless broadband: an opportunity for rural and enterprise 5G’ report conducted by Plum Consulting which discussed the role independent networks will play in realising UK Government broadband targets.

“5G is more than another mobile network upgrade; it is not simply business as usual for mobile operators, but will facilitate new services and new business models, some of which are being trialled through the testbeds programme,” said Corbett. “With this also comes the need to change the way our broadband regulators work and we are delighted that the Government has backed our calls for change when it comes to spectrum allocation.”

Meanwhile, Mark Collins, CityFibre’s Director of Strategy, has also welcomed the strategy but has warned that customers must be put first when making decisions.

“Today marks the day the Government decided once and for all to leave copper behind and commit the UK to a full fibre future, making clear that a new generation of infrastructure builders is the vehicle for delivering its bold ambition for all homes and businesses to be connected to full fibre by 2033, not just Openreach,” he said. “CityFibre is already building the networks that the UK’s economy needs to prosper and is ready to work with industry and Government to make this a reality quickly.

“The Government’s plans to deliver nationwide full fibre include a welcome commitment to creating a level-playing field, ensuring greater transparency from the incumbent and delivering a stable regulatory environment for investment. However, it is critical that the consumer is at the heart of this fantastic opportunity from the start, as this is the key to unlocking demand. That means avoiding price rises, ensuring switching between networks is simple and ending the years of misleading ‘fake fibre’ advertising. Getting both sides of the equation right is key to ensuring millions of homes and businesses will benefit – we now need to see the Government and Ofcom push these plans through.”

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