The government is focusing heavily on 5G and broadband rollout. Most recently, £1.7bn was allocated in the Autumn Budget, to a ‘Transforming Cities Fund’ to improve local transaction connections and £385m allocated to developing 5G networks, full-fibre broadband and improving mobile communications for rail passengers. The funding comes from the National Productivity Investment Fund.
The Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA) received Royal Assent on 27 April. Its primary focus is an overhaul of the law governing the installation and maintenance of telecoms infrastructure, as covered in more detail in our update Investing in networks for the future – regulatory developments.
The DEA introduces a broad range of reforms in areas including electronic communications networks and services, measures to counter online bullying and restrict access to online pornography, protection of IP in broadcast material, data sharing, regulation of the BBC and direct marketing, as detailed in Radar’s May edition.
The government also introduced a Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill to introduce new regulations around supporting investment in full fibre broadband communications. Telecoms providers installing new full fibre infrastructure in England will benefit from 100% business rate relief on property on which they install the infrastructure, potentially saving telcos £60m. The relief will be backdated to 1 April 2017.
The EU has been reviewing its telecoms regulation as part of the Digital Single Market strategy. It published a draft Electronic Communications Code in 2016, which is still in the throes of negotiation.
The EC also adopted a Regulation to promote internet connectivity in local communities. The Regulation will facilitate provision of free wifi in town halls and public areas. The EU will fund installation of local wireless points provided the local authority maintains the service for at least three years.