Government launches review into delivering next-generation broadband

Government launches review into delivering next-generation broadband

Independent review will look at barriers to investing in new infrastructure

The Government has launched an independent review into the part it should play in helping to deliver next-generation broadband networks.

Ultrafast broadband services, reaching speeds of up to 100Mbits/sec, are seen as crucial in helping the competitiveness of British businesses. The review will investigate the potential barriers to the mass roll-out of next generation broadband and how content companies can best collaborate with those responsible for the infrastructure.

Launching the review, minister Shriti Vadera said: "The way we will do business and access many Government services, information and entertainment will change beyond recognition over our lifetime.

"We must be ready to respond to future technological developments, which will create unprecedented challenges for our communications networks over the coming decade."

Commenting on the announcement of the review, Kip Meek, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) said: "This is the right announcement at the right time.

"The BSG has stressed the importance of building an evidence base that permits more informed decision-making on the various policy, commercial and regulatory issues. The review addresses some of the BSG's central concerns about next-generation broadband and we'll be fully engaged to support its work.'

"In April last year the BSG set out nine recommendations for action in its Pipe Dreams report on prospects for next-generation broadband. The review picks up on several of those recommendations and will help to identify the potential policy options available to the Government to support investment in next-generation broadband."

The need for the Government to investigate the issue was highlighted by Stephen Timms when he was business and competitive minister. At the end of last year he said broadband infrastructure was one of his "personal priorities".

He ordered a summit to look at the UK's perceived lack of high speed broadband network connectivity and ways to speed up the deployment of super-fast services.

Some internet service providers are already starting to develop high-speed services. For example Virgin Media is running a 50Mbits/sec pilot in Ashford and BT plans a 100Mbits/sec fibre network to homes in Ebbsfleet. However the majority of the current infrastructure will be unable to cope with new services and the investment in rolling out next-generation broadband will be massive.

The independent review, led by Francesco Caio, vice chairman of Lehman Brothers and Chairman of its European Advisory Board, will therefore look at key issues including the possible barriers to any new models of investment.

It will also examine whether there are opportunities to minimise the cost of private-sector investment and whether there is a public-sector role in this respect, for example related to civil works.

The review will also look at whether the EU and UK statutory framework has given the regulator Ofcom the necessary powers to establish a regulatory regime that would provide regulatory certainty for investors and sufficiently encourage investment.

Mr Caio, who will work alongside relevant Government departments, will publish the report in the autumn to the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.