CBI calls for “urgent action” on faster connectivity

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A new report from the CBI urged the government to prioritise gigabit broadband and 5G investments in 2019.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called on the government to take swift steps in order to ensure that firms in the UK are not left at a disadvantage because of poor connectivity.

In a new report, the organisation stated this must not be overshadowed by Brexit in the coming year and highlighted several key areas where it will be important for progress to be made.

While the body welcomed "ambitious" targets to roll out 5G nationwide by 2027 and bring  full fibre to the entire country by 2033, it warned that unless "urgent action" is taken in terms of funding and policy in 2019, "firms of all sizes will be at risk of losing their competitive edge internationally".

Among the key steps urged by the CBI are legislation to ensure that every new-build property in the UK has access to gigabit broadband by the end of next year and the establishment of of a cross-government fibre and 5G taskforce to coordinate efforts to improve connectivity.

It also called for an awareness campaign to educate businesses about the potential use cases for 5G in order to "turbo-charge" adoption of the technology.

The CBI estimated that effective 5G technology could add up to £173 billion to the UK's economy by 2030, by boosting productivity and helping end the postcode lottery that currently determines the quality of connection businesses are able to receive.

Chief policy director at the CBI Matthew Fell said that digital services matter more than ever in today's environment. He noted that if data is the "new oil", as it has often been described, than connectivity is the pipeline that transports it to where it needs to be.

"Seamless connections, from full fibre networks to 5G, offer unprecedented opportunities for businesses and consumers across the UK," he continued.

“Our country is already home to hundreds of thousands of innovative technological firms, both start-ups and large enterprises. Business models and workplaces are changing, and more people are either working from a coffee shop, their home or office."

These businesses are the backbone of the economy and will all rely on fast and reliable digital connectivity to operate successfully, Mr Fell continued.

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