UK govt pledges additional £500m towards 5G, fibre and AI

£385 million of the new funds will be specifically spent on 5G, FTTH

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The U.K. government on Wednesday committed an additional £500 million to boost the country's broadband connectivity.
 
Delivering his autumn budget statement to Parliament, chancellor of the exchequer Phillip  Hammond said that the government would allocate £500 million to "a range of initiatives from artificial intelligence to 5G and full fibre broadband".
 
While the speech was low on specific details, Hammond confirmed that approximately £385 million of the funds would specifically go towards 5G and fibre to the home (FTTH) infrastructure.
 
In their 2017 manifesto, the Conservative party pledged to have 10 million premises connected to FTTH networks by 2022. Vodafone and CityFibre went some way to achieving this target, when they signed a deal recently to bring FTTH broadband to 5 million homes. This new money will go some way to realising the rest of the target.
 
Analysts were quick to applaud the investment, saying that the U.K. must act now to avoid being left behind in the race for gigabit connectivity.
 
“5G will have a big bang impact. Its long fuse has today been lit following the Chancellor’s deployment of finances that will lay the foundations of 5G readiness. The UK’s demand for capacity is insatiable; 5G and fibre networks are required to quench that thirst as 4G capacity is exhausted," said Paul Lee, head of telecommunications research at Deloitte.
 
“We should not think about 5G as just another technology but rather as a building block for digital transformation. Faster networks with more capacity are prerequisites for a digital nation – it is the nervous system of the digital world," he added.
 
Despite the generally warm reception for the investment, some remain unconvinced that the money is being allocated in the most efficient manner.
 
“It’s refreshing to see government investment into connectivity, but 5G will take several years to become mainstream. While it may one day meet expectations, we need a solution now. Our big cities urgently need networks that can support the world class infrastructure that the government wants to build, so instead of holding our breath for 5G we should invest into WiFi technology for a simple, cost effective solution," said Nick Watson, VP EMEA at tech firm, Ruckus.
 
In addition to the £500m investment, the U.K. government pledged to set out rules to better facilitate the development of self-driving cars. It also said that it would set up the world's first national advisory body for artificial intelligence, which will allow the U.K. to focus on the development of new technologies. 
 
From 19-20 June 2018, the telecoms industry will come together to discuss strategies for delivering superfast broadband throughout the U.K. at the Connected Britain 2018 event. The event will bring together altnets, telcos and local and national government officials, to present their vision for superfast connectivity throughout the U.K. Click here to find out how you can be part of the show.