eevl - Fotolia

Government explores altnet fund and finds cash for mobile broadband

In the spending review, the government announced the possibility of setting up a new fund to invest in altnets and found £550m to support more spectrum for mobile broadband

Alternative network developers – or altnets – could be set to receive a major funding boost from Westminster following an announcement in the government’s spending review.

The government said it would explore the possibility of setting up a new broadband investment fund that would “support the growth of alternative network developers by providing greater access to finance”.

It said the fund would be supported by a combination of public and private money, managed by the private sector on a commercial basis.

“Competition between broadband providers supports the delivery of the fast and reliable broadband a modern, productive economy needs,” said the government in its policy paper.

“Innovative approaches to supporting the market will help deliver ultrafast speeds to nearly all premises.”

A number of government-supported trials of alternative broadband delivery technologies have been running over recent months, including satellite broadband, which despite its shortcomings now appears to be emerging as the preferred solution to address the needs of the final 5%, those left out of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

Elsewhere, rural fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) supplier and confirmed altnet Gigaclear scooped a number of contracts to deploy pure fibre broadband services in parts of Berkshire, the Cotswolds and Essex under the £1.7bn BDUK fund.

Separately, the spending review also contained details of a £550m investment to bring the 700MHz spectrum into use for mobile broadband, in support of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which earlier in November 2015 announced the worldwide harmonisation of the 700MHz band for exactly that purpose.

This area of radio spectrum is currently used mostly for digital terrestrial television and wireless communication for theatrical, musical and sporting events, some of which would need to be rehoused before the spectrum could be brought into use, which could be as long as seven years from now.

Other European Union countries have already moved on auctioning off the 700MHz band, with France having raised nearly €3bn from the process, and Germany just over €5bn, according to Total Telecom.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications