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Market must lead on full fibre rollout, Digital Minister tells broadband forum

Published 19/10/2016

Digital Minister Matt Hancock has said full fibre and 5G are the future for Britain's digital infrastructure and indicated that there are alternatives to the Government paying for it.

He told the Broadband World Forum event in London that by 2020 the volume of global internet traffic is expected to be 95 times what it was in 2005, and 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.

"It is essential that we keep up."

He said the current part-fibre, part-copper infrastructure had brought superfast connectivity to the majority of the country, with 95% of the country to have 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."

He said new entrants had shown that adoption of full fibre could be economic, citing the Gigabit City project in York and companies such as Gigaclear bringing fibre to the Cotswolds.

Evidence around the world increasingly pointed to fibre rollout as the underpinning of a digital nation, Mr Hancock said, adding: "To those who say it's been tried and failed, I say go to Hull.

"It's the one part of the country not covered by BT, and full fibre is now available to over half its businesses and homes.

"I'd like to give praise to Hull's KCOM, who just last week announced that 25,000 more homes and businesses are to be connected to their full fibre service within the next six months.

"Between May this year and the end of the next they 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", specifically 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."

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