Written Evidence Submitted by the University of Strathclyde : DCMS Committee Inquiry on "Broadband and the Road to 5G"

Paul, Greig (2020) Written Evidence Submitted by the University of Strathclyde : DCMS Committee Inquiry on "Broadband and the Road to 5G". UK Parliament, London.

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    Abstract

    * High quality, reliable, fast connectivity (i.e. Gigabit capable) is very important for the UK economy, but the Committee should ensure Government does not underestimate the scale and difficulty of this task. * Current commitment is to reach every home with 10 Mbps, and this only started March 2020. This intervention doesn’t have an obligation to delivering Gigabit where feasible, meaning it will not deliver a true “outside-in” solution. * Increasing ambition to 1 Gbps is sensible, but in a time of clear pressure on public finances due to Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, costs must be carefully managed, to ensure we do not spend more money than is required to deliver this. * 5G will not replace the need for investment in fibre infrastructure to the premises – we need fibre backhaul for 5G anyway, and it would be so close to premises that it may as well be used to also provide broadband. * Since 5G that is capable of higher speeds to end users needs to use higher frequencies, this means it travels a lower distance, requiring more base station sites, and increasing the costs significantly. For this reason, 5G will not solve Government’s problem of getting rural areas connected to Gigabit speeds. 5G can and should be used to drive roll-out of fibre, which can and should be shared with mobile networks and consumers alike. We should deploy connectivity in a unified and coherent manner, rather than as a series of disconnected projects. * Traditional approaches to building mobile networks do not utilise this kind of agile and flexible provision of infrastructure – mobile operators want to have their own dedicated networks, since it is how they have always done things. We should not allow their desire for this (it is not a requirement, simply a desire) to hold back rural connectivity. If Government uses public money here, it has a duty to ensure efficient use of this money. * Connectivity can be delivered to areas requiring Gigabit speeds by local SMEs that already provide broadband in their own communities. They are doing this today, and delivering higher speeds to farms and hamlets than the national scale operators are giving businesses and people in major top-5 cities. From a simple economic perspective, the Committee should ensure Government’s plans acknowledge this efficiency, and do not issue a single nationwide program, like it did with USO. This does not reward the ingenuity and local skills that can allow local people to deliver connectivity to their local area at significantly better prices than national-scale operators. If it saves public money at this time, it is worth doing. * A "common sense" approach to connectivity would be beneficial – there are many situations where a small extension to an existing network’s reach would help to bring users online with Gigabit capable speeds. Government should seek to do this wherever possible, to leverage the existing assets and investment already in the ground. This would be an area where detailed mapping data on access to existing assets would be beneficial.

    ORCID iDs

    Paul, Greig ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6070-3192;