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Industry hails government pledge on Digital Economy Bill

James Pearce
May 18, 2016

The Queen set out Government plans to reduce costs of new masts and introduce Broadband Universal Service Obligation

Industry figures have welcomed the Government’s pledge to reduce the costs of building new mobile masts as part of its upcoming Digital Economy Bill.

The pledge, which was made by the Queen as part of today’s Queen’s Speech in front of Parliament, will see a new code introduced that will lower the cost of building new infrastructure for mobile operators – believed to be around £100,000 per mast under current legislation.

O2 CEO Ronan Dunne said the reforms showed “progress” as the UK moves towards new technology, including 5G, which is set to rollout by 2020.

“This infrastructure is critical to business efficiency, to productivity, to the economy and to our future – but at the moment we are stuck in analogue mode. Whilst it is a step in the right direction for the rural areas not yet benefitting from mobile connectivity, investment in digital infrastructure is not just about reducing these connectivity blackspots.

“Solving this issue not only requires a bold, long-term vision, it requires leadership and collective effort by industry, government, local authorities, regulators and the public. Today’s Bill sets us on the right path. If we act now, and work together to deliver the promises set out, we can shore up our digital infrastructure and secure our economic future.”

According to research from O2, Britain’s economy could be boosted by £1.5 billion by 2020 if as few as 30 towns across Britain are given access to better digital infrastructure and technology.

Dunne’s words were echoed by industry body techUK, who said improving operator access to both mobile and broadband sites will be vital to building networks in more remote areas.

“Gaining timely access to sites on fair terms makes a huge difference when trying to deploy communications infrastructure, be that in city centres or highly rural areas”, said techUK deputy CEO Antony Walker.

“These changes will make it cheaper to build or upgrade infrastructure, meaning that private sector investment will result in more homes, businesses and transport corridors being provided with high-quality connectivity.”

Another aspect of the proposed bill is the decision to give Ofcom more power to reform how customers switch between providers.

According to recent figures from uSwitch, the average UK consumer could save up to £250 by switching.

Three has previously challenged the government to change the system from requiring customers to get a PAC from their current provider before leaving, to a gaining-provider led system.

A Three spokesperson: “We welcome the inclusion of a number of measures in the Queen’s speech to improve competition and connectivity in the UK mobile sector which include new powers for Ofcom to implement improvements to switching as well as anticipated measures to strengthen Ofcom’s ability to introduce reforms in a timely manner.”

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