As part of the publication of the UK chancellor’s ‘Spending Review 2020’, the British government has set aside GBP1.2 billion (USD1.6 billion) to subsidise the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband over the next four years.
With such spending forming part of the government’s wider GBP5 billion commitment to support the rollout of gigabit connectivity to the hardest to reach areas of the country, the review specifies that GBP100 million is earmarked for investment in 2021-22, with a further GBP300 million set aside for 2022-23, while expenditure of GBP400 million and GBP500 million is planned for 2023-24 and 2024-25, respectively. Further investment is seemingly on the cards too, with the Spending Review 2020 noting that the funds currently set aside are for ‘the first four years of the GBP5 billion Gigabit Broadband programme’, suggesting more may have to be spent to attain the government’s desired coverage target.
In tandem to the publication of the spending review, meanwhile, HM Treasury – the government’s economic and finance ministry – has also published its ‘National Infrastructure Strategy’ (‘NIS’), which details its current target for gigabit broadband coverage. In the document the government notes that it is ‘working with industry to target a minimum of 85% gigabit capable coverage by 2025, but will seek to accelerate rollout further to get as close to 100% as possible’. With regards to the current progress towards its goal, the NIS claims that more than a third of UK premises now have access to gigabit-capable connections, up from 9% in July 2019, while the government expects that ‘more than half of all premises’ will have access by the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, the Spending Review 2020 has also confirmed that GBP50 million will be spent in 2021 as part of a GBP250 million commitment to building a ‘secure and resilient 5G network’. In addition, the state will invest more than GBP200 million across the country to continue what it called ‘flagship digital infrastructure programmes’, including the Shared Rural Network for 4G coverage, Local Full Fibre Networks, and the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.