Full fibre and 5G rollouts ‘under threat’ from Brexit focus

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The government must ensure it does not overlook digital infrastructure projects such as 5G due to its heavy focus on Brexit, the CBI has set.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned that the development of faster digital connectivity networks in the UK, including 5G and full fibre-to-the-premises broadband, could be harmed by the impact of Brexit if action to prioritise them is not taken.

In its latest Ready, Set, Connect report, the business group said that the focus on Brexit has been "sucking the oxygen out of priorities like this at home", which could leave businesses up and down the country missing out on the benefits of faster mobile and fixed-line connectivity.

Chief UK policy director at the organisation Matthew Fell said there is a "real risk" that 2019 could be a year in which key parts of the economy such as this are overlooked while attentions are turned toward our future relationship with Europe.

"There’s already a digital divide in rural areas across the UK," he continued. "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."

Therefore, the CBI laid out several recommendations for government in order to ensure companies will be able to adopt new technologies and close the productivity gap between London and the rest of the UK.

Among its suggestions are calls to raise awareness about enterprises of 5G and how it can be used through government trials, while the CBI also advocated for all new train lines and other transport projects to be equipped with full fibre cables.

Mr Fell said that while there is no doubt that the UK is currently developing "fantastic technology" to improve connectivity and boost productivity, the real challenge will be in ensuring that firms are able to adopt it.

"2019 must be a year of rapid uptake. First by extending support for businesses to help small firms adopt existing technologies like 4G and full fibre. And second, by expanding trials in new technology like 5G so businesses can explore the art of the possible with seamless connectivity," he continued.

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