Government should be 'tech agnostic' with rural ultrafast broadband

Optical fiber
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has reiterated calls for the government to adopt a “technology agnostic” approach when looking at the best way to connect the hardest-to-reach homes and businesses to superfast and ultrafast broadband.

The vast majority of the UK’s broadband infrastructure is delivered by fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology that uses copper for the final few metres of a connection, but the industry and the government are now shifting towards a ‘fibre-by-default’ approach.

The government has pledged to connect 85% of the UK to gigabit broadband by the end of 2025 (a lower target than the universal coverage it pledged before the 2019 General Election).

Government broadband

Most of the country will be covered by commercial deployments of fibre by Openreach, Virgin Media and ‘alt-nets’ like CityFibre, with the government pledging £5 billion in subsidies and support to extend coverage as far as possible.

‘Project Gigabit’ has already identified several rural areas where additional assistance will be required but alternative technologies, such as 4G, 5G and satellite, will all be key in extending coverage even further. The government is currently consulting on what form a support package for the most remote parts of the UK will take.

The BSG has commissioned a report by analyst firm Analysys Mason to identify the most appropriate technologies for each use case and the biggest challenges to their deployment.

The advisory group says it wanted to provide the government with as much evidence a possible when creating a subsidy programme. Full fibre, inevitably, is the costliest option but 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite tech could play a role where fixed connectivity isn’t feasible.  

Among its recommendations are that, where appropriate, the government should tackle the challenges of mobile and broadband coverage at the same time and enable regulatory changes that make it easier and cheaper to build network infrastructure. The report also suggests that there should be consideration given to other elements of policy such as availability, accessibility, reliability and the resilience of service.

“We are pleased to respond to the Government’s consultation on Very Hard to Reach Premises,” declared Stephanie Liston, BSG Chair. “We have seen the significant need in the UK for digital services throughout the pandemic. As we enhance and rebuild our economy, the need for ubiquitous broadband coverage is essential. We look forward to contributing to the Government’s support of all aspects of digital connectivity.”  

“Providing high speed broadband services to Very Hard to Reach Premises will be challenging, but with the right choice of technologies and download speed targets, policy makers can find a cost-effective solution,” added Matt Yardley, Managing Partner at Analysys Mason.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.