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NIC Calls Out UK Gov for Foot Dragging Over Digital Infrastructure

Friday, Feb 22nd, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 1,297

A new report from the National Infrastructure Commission warns the UK Government not to “take their eye off the ball,” particularly after it identified that a large number of previously accepted recommendations (some related to mobile and “full fibreFTTP broadband ISP connectivity) had yet to be implemented.

The NIC’s Annual Monitoring Report is an examination of the Government’s actions against the commissions past recommendations, such as those identified as part of last year’s assessment of the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs (here). Out of the 45 recommendations made across six different sector-specific reports, the Government has so far accepted 42 of them.

However, the report states that only 10 of the accepted recommendations are now considered to have been “fully met,” such as the introduction of better measuring of mobile connectivity, moves towards improving rail connections between Leeds and Manchester and efforts to deliver a smart / flexible energy system.

Sadly progress against the remaining 32 recommendations is said to have been “varied” and the NIC want to see “significantly increased momentum” to tackle those. Part of the problem appears to be that the Government have so far focused on the quickest-to-implement recommendations.

The report particularly highlights the limited progress made in improving Mobile (3G, 4G etc.) connections on the road and rail network, which it says have left “passengers without the signal they would rightly expect during their journeys.”

Mobile Recommendations:

• Setting out next steps on mobile connectivity for rail in 2019 – essential to offer clarity for suppliers, and for ensuring the necessary trackside infrastructure is in place by 2025, to keep in step with deployment of new 5G networks; and

• Developing a plan for scaling motorway mobile connectivity beyond existing trials by the end of 2019 – this would enable delivery of these new connections by 2025 at the latest, and meet the needs of driverless cars using the UK’s roads in future.

Last month the Government scrapped part of their Trans Pennine Initiative (TPI), specifically the 5G radio trial aspect, because of was deemed too expensive (here). The initiative was initially seen as supporting the Government’s wider proposals to make “uninterruptedWiFi and Mobile (5G) broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps available on-board all UK mainline train routes by 2025. Luckily there’s still plenty of time left to find better solutions.

Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the NIC, said:

“There is a real and exciting chance available to ensure the UK benefits from world-class infrastructure, particularly through the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy – a first for this country. We cannot afford for Ministers to take their eye off the ball.

With this issue at the heart of the Industrial Strategy, I would urge the Government to adopt the recommendations from our National Infrastructure Assessment, and use this to offer industry the long-term, fully-costed infrastructure plan they need.

But I also want to see Ministers go even further and faster in enacting those more challenging proposals from our six other reports, where progress has been lagging in certain areas – such as improving mobile connections on our road and rail networks and in delivering new homes, as well as transport connections, across the Growth Arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford.”

At the time of writing the NIC hadn’t yet published their full report, although we will come back to this and summarise the rest of their recommendations later this morning if they add anything new. Otherwise we should learn more about the Government’s future plans when they publish their National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) sometime this year.

Aside from that, most of their planned changes to mobile and broadband connectivity were set out last year as part of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), which echoed much of what the NIC wanted to see (here). Ofcom has also proposed a number of related regulatory changes.

UPDATE 8:23am

Added a link to the report above, which doesn’t add much additional info. for us to summarise but is still worth a read.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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