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Most Brits to get 5G coverage by 2027 – Japan intends to have it for 2020 Olympics

That we’ll need better connectivity to compete online has been made clear by government statistics. Global internet traffic is forecast to be 95 times that of 2005 in 2020, with mobiles outnumbering mankind seven to one. But will our 5G ambitions be realised in time to capitalise on the change?
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A CBI survey took a deeper look at the subject. Some 81 per cent of companies taking part deemed reliable mobile connectivity to be of huge importance, suggesting 5G coverage should be high on the government’s priority list – especially if increased speeds alone could add £17bn to UK output by 2024.

The government is by no means sitting idly on its hands, intending for Britain to reign supreme in terms of 5G coverage and superfast connectivity – a fact reiterated alongside its released statistics.

There’s a Connection Voucher scheme and chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement-announced £1bn infrastructure investment, not to mention a 100 per cent business rates relief for a period of five years to those rolling out fibre cables. So expectations for 95 per cent of Brits to have access to superfast broadband by December 2017 looks set to be met.

We’re thus heading down the right track to make the most of the 2020 smart device boom, right? It’s a question we asked Dave Millett, director of Equinox Communication – and he believes the figure is misleading.

“The 95 per cent only applies to properties/premises,” he said. “Because BT Openreach targeted rollout to residential areas this means large swathes of businesses, notably in city centres and business parks, have no access to fibre broadband at all.”

Another issue lies in the government’s definition of superfast – download speeds in excess of 24Mbps. Other countries consider superfast to be 100 or 220Mpbs, Millett explained.

“In that regard, we rank bottom of Europe as only two per cent of Brits are privy to what is deemed ‘ultrafast’ connectivity (300Mbps+). In contrast Lithuania has 45 per cent coverage.

“We are way behind the likes of the US, Canada and Japan, even Eastern Europe and other growth countries. In fact, we are 54th in world for 4G coverage, trailing Jordan, Kazakhstan and Macedonia on Fibre To The Premises (FTTP).”

We don’t seem to be doing much better on the 5G coverage front, as Millett explained that currently there is no “genuine ambition” to see its domination claims met.

“The UK is a long way behind other countries,” he said. “Japan and South Korea are expecting to have 5G operating in 2020. Japan intends to have it in time for the Olympics. The Conservative manifesto proposed to hand the majority 5G coverage by 2027, which emphasises a lack of ambition.

“The government’s 5G coverage endeavour also requires more investment which is not forthcoming. It may have re-announced £400m as if it was additional money, but it was a sum announced in the last budget.

“Likewise, government spending is behind other countries. For example, South Korea is spending $1.6bn on getting 5G in place.”

It doesn’t help matters that the UK telecoms space has been charged with misleading clients – and has led to doubts among SMEs and home owners alike.

Read on to find out what type of disruption could accelerate the government’s plans.

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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