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UK risks 'falling behind' without broadband investment, says report

Friday, October 13th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The UK risks “falling behind internationally” if it doesn’t invest in its mobile and broadband networks, a new report warns.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) says the current state of the UK’s infrastructure could hold it back unless “urgent action is taken” to increase capacity and futureproof the network.

Problems with the UK’s roads, railways, airports and air quality are also highlighted in the NIC report, which comes two years after the infrastructure watchdog was created.

The report says the UK’s digital economy is the largest of any G20 nation as a percentage of GDP but that increased broadband speeds could add £17bn to UK output by 2024.

It also talks of the need to integrate the UK’s fixed and mobile broadband networks, as they “have developed separately but are becoming increasingly similar”.

The NIC says nearly 25% of premises in rural areas do not receive a decent broadband service and that the UK lags behind countries including the USA, Netherlands and Japan for 4G and broadband speeds.

In a previous report, the NIC ranked Britain’s 4G network 54th in the world and said the country was littered with “digital deserts and partial not-spots”.

Launching today’s report Lord Adonis, the commission’s chairman, said: “We have a proud history in this country of delivering world-class infrastructure – but for years funding has been squeezed, policy decisions have been erratic and the network is showing signs of age and strain.”

He highlighted the government’s delay in reaching a firm decision on whether to expand Heathrow Airport as “perhaps the most serious” infrastructure failure.

“But we also risk falling behind internationally if we don’t improve our mobile and broadband connections, and residents of our great cities will suffer unless we do something to improve air quality.

“We cannot afford to sit on our hands – ministers must act now to tackle the three Cs of congestion, capacity and carbon if we are to have infrastructure fit for the future, supporting economic growth across the country.”

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