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Speed Up Britain aims to boost connectivity across the UK in 2022

The beginning of a new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months and, pleasingly, look ahead to a more connected future.

2021 in review

2021 was a year in which the country realised more than ever the importance of connectivity. Despite partial lockdowns and many of us having to isolate to stay safe, we were able to continue working from home, shop online, progress school education remotely and stay connected with family and friends.

With the urgency of high-quality digital communications so clearly in view, the UK Government reaffirmed its commitment to improving connectivity across the country by starting the process of enshrining in law important changes to the Electronic Communications Code (The Code), the key piece of legislation governing telecoms operators’ access to land and buildings for the improvement of digital connectivity across the country.

Until now, the Code has not been working as intended. Agreements between landowners and the telecoms industry to share, upgrade or build new telecoms infrastructure has been challenging. Agreeing fair compensation, calculated in accordance with Code principles, for those hosting communication sites has remained a fundamental obstacle to future success. The rollout of 5G has been slower than desired. If these delays continue at the current rate, by 2027 over 11 million households and businesses could be missing out on vital digital connectivity, according to the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS).

Fortunately, we now stand on the cusp of real action from Government which should enable us to achieve a truly connected future.

In our submission to the Government consultation which kicked off the process of updating the Code, Speed Up Britain asked for the Government to remove the financial incentives that make it pay to slow down the rollout; we asked for there to be consistency with the Code across all legislation governing the agreements between landowners and operators and asked the Government to ensure that operators can share and upgrade sites when they need to.

Speed Up Britain is very supportive that, along with an ongoing commitment to invest in national infrastructure to boost growth, which includes the aim to cover 95% of the UK’s landmass with 4G through the Shared Rural Network by the end of 2025, the Government has now committed to change the Code to ensure it delivers on its ambition to make the rollout of mobile infrastructure easier and quicker. The potential prize for the UK economy is huge. Research carried out by CPS tells us that if 5G coverage reaches a quarter more of the population than the Government’s current target of 51%, it will produce GDP gains of £41.7 billion by 2027.

The future

The right steps are being taken on the path towards better connectivity and to transform rural communities across the country. We know the importance and the benefits connectivity can bring to society on both a personal and business level and how important it is for the economic future of our country.

With the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill now announced, we look forward to continuing to work together with Government and industry throughout the rest of the process. Speed Up Britain is committed to providing any further support that we can to accelerate the needed roll out.

By enabling the quicker and easier rollout across the country, we can fulfil our promise of improving connectivity and coverage across the UK; enabling the UK to become a leader in 5G and realise billions of pounds of additional economic output that a connected country delivers.