Government needs to ensure Brexit doesn't stymie 5G and broadband development, says CBI

CBI chief UK policy director calls for government to make significant changes to digital strategy ahead of Brexit

British flag with binary on it

The CBI has described Brexit as "sucking the oxygen" out of the UK's digital economy, including plans to roll out 5G tech and build a faster, more stable broadband network.

CBI chief UK policy director Matthew Fell wants the government to take steps to help companies develop networks to ensure Britain isn't left behind when it comes to 5G and superfast broadband development when it leaves the EU later this year.

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He said if the UK government doesn't do enough to allay the risks, the UK may well lag behind the rest of the world and when it comes to broadband and mobile network access the gap between towns and cities and rural areas will continue to grow.

The three main concerns are that investment in enhanced broadband rollout will come to an end as private businesses hold back on spending, that equipment suppliers from outside the UK will withdraw their support meaning the availability of infrastructure will wane, and skilled engineers will seek jobs elsewhere, meaning there's not the manpower to support the UK's aggressive plans.

"There's already a digital divide in rural areas across the UK," said Fell.

"Our ability to enjoy world-class digital connectivity shouldn't be determined by where we live or work. It's not just a social case for national coverage, but a clear economic one."

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He has suggested that the government should work hard on policy to make sure the UK doesn't stall when it comes to providing high-capacity, fast networks to the nation.

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Recommendations include fast-tracking laws to make sure companies only install full fibre or other gigabit cables in new homes, that all train lines and other public transport utilise full fibre cables, and businesses prepare their staff about the benefits of 5G services.

"Businesses have already invested heavily in digital infrastructure. In fact, the private sector will provide most of the 33 billion total investment needed to deliver full fibre networks across the UK," explained Fell. "But Government must help firms access those hard to reach areas."

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