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INCA: UK gigabit broadband progress more important than ever

Trade body for independent network providers calls for progress toward the delivery of ultrafast broadband to all parts of the UK to continue despite the current Covid-19 lockdown conditions

Citing the increased demands on internet providers from the many millions more people working from home to illustrate the need to ensure the UK has the best possible digital infrastructure, the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) has called for no let-up in the current pace of UK full-fibre development despite coronavirus.

The move comes as INCA announced it was also moving its entire events programme online to prevent delays to delivering ultrafast broadband for all in the UK.

INCA’s 2020 events programme covers four main themes; predicting and maximising the impact of 5G, spreading superfast broadband to rural areas, removing barriers to delivering gigabit digital infrastructure, and helping independent network operators seize the opportunity of full-fibre and gigabit digital network deployment.

The events programme, due to be held at venues across the country, has been converted into a series of webinars with reduced prices for attendance.

“With lockdown conditions unlikely to be lifted completely for some time to come, people across the country are getting used to working from home and are relying more than ever on the internet for keeping in touch and to provide entertainment as they observe social distancing guidelines,” said INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett.

“Network resilience has been good during the crisis, but sharing best practice on the way networks are operated and managed has taken on even greater importance.”

The call to action is timely. The UK fibre industry has gained a lot of momentum in terms of deployment in 2020. In one of the first public statements he made after becoming prime minister in July 2019, Boris Johnson pledged that he would work towards “delivering full-fibre [broadband] to every home in the land” by 2025, and in his first Budget statement in March 2020, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government will fulfil its promise to make funding available to develop gigabit broadband roll-out across the UK, especially in the so-called hardest-to-reach parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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The first quarter of the year also saw CityFibre further extend its full-fibre network in the UK by 36 locations, bringing the total number of premises in its reach to five million across 62 towns and cities, and the operator for UK’s first full-fibre city, KCOM, look to spread full-fibre reach to surrounding areas with a network that is said to have produced an estimated cumulative economic impact of more than £469m.

Furthermore, the advancements in 2020 follow a strong 2019 for the UK altnet fibre industry whose members INCA represents which was found to have ended the year with 50% growth year-on-year, up from 23% growth at the end of 2018, with networks passing 1.2 million premises with fixed superfast or ultrafast broadband.

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