July 5, 2017
The UK’s faltering move towards ultrafast broadband has been given a much-needed boost with the launch of a new fund, which will support the rollout of cutting-edge connections across the country. The government’s £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF) will unlock over £1 billion for full fibre broadband, and kick-start better broadband connections across the country. Its aim is to revolutionise Britain’s digital infrastructure, making internet access more reliable for homes and businesses, and enabling more people to enjoy remote working without disruption. According to the Treasury, the flexibility to work remotely is pivotal for driving the economy forward; reducing overheads and helping businesses to start and grow.
In response to the announcement, Rufus Grig, chief technology and strategy officer at Maintel said: “High-speed internet has never been more vital in ensuring that British organisations perform to their full potential. The proposed pledge to broadband is a step forward for all businesses. However, it cannot stop there. More must be done to manage networking services for British companies if they are to compete on the global stage and drive our economy forward. 60 percent of employees think technology can replace physical workplace interaction.
“This increase in flexible working means real-time traffic on enterprise networks will continue to increase, through voice or video calls, screen-sharing, instant messaging or video casts. These business critical real-time applications, with low tolerance to delays or errors put networks under enormous strain. Maintaining uptime and performance can have a real impact on any companies bottom-line. Networking services cannot be ignored. High capacity fibre connections between data centres and managed broadband services for smaller sites and home workers is now an absolute.”
The government has already invested £1.7 billion to spur industry to rollout superfast broadband across the UK. This new fund will take that to the next level, the Treasury claims. Launching the fund, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Jones MP said: “We are investing £400 million to make sure the UK’s digital infrastructure is match-fit for the future. As technologies change and people’s habits move with them, it is crucial we play our part to ensure Britain stays at the front of the pack. Gone will be the days where parents working from home see their emails grind to a halt while a family member is gaming or streaming Game of Thrones in the next room. Full fibre will provide us with the better broadband we need to ensure we can work flexibly and productively, without connections failing.”
This investment, announced at Autumn Statement 2016, will be in addition to the government’s £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund aimed at improving productivity, which is key to raising living standards.
Traditionally in Britain, full fibre has been difficult to finance because the industry is relatively young and a lack of certainty around future demand makes investment hard to secure, according to the Treasury. This has held back alternative providers from entering the market and consumers have been left with limited choice, which in turn, has restricted their ability to benefit from this latest technology, including restricting the chance of effective remote working.
The fund, which is expected to more than double the government’s £400 million investment, and unlock over £1 billion of capital in the sector, will be managed and invested on a by private sector partners, “generating a commercial return for the government and igniting interest from private finance to invest in the sector, resulting in more alternative providers entering and expanding in the market.”
Britain’s homes are mostly connected to the internet via underground copper wires to a green cabinet on the street. Full Fibre networks seek to run fibre connections straight to the doors of customers’ homes or businesses, via laser light flashes through glass or plastic tubes, making broadband stronger and more consistent. Unlike broadband run through copper wires which can be degraded by distance or the number of people accessing the internet at any one time, full fibre networks are much more resilient.
Two infrastructure investment firms have been appointed to manage the fund. Amber Fund Management Limited, part of the Amber Infrastructure Group, and M&G Investments, part of Prudential PLC. M&G Investments includes Infracapital, who have partnered with Cameron Barney; and M&G’s infrastructure debt team.