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2024 Conservative Manifesto Reiterates Existing UK Broadband and 5G Plans

Tuesday, Jun 11th, 2024 (12:59 pm) - Score 1,040

The Conservative Party has today published their own Manifesto for the 4th July 2024 UK General Election, which naturally echoes their existing pledges around fixed line gigabit broadband coverage, as well as their efforts to improve 5G based mobile network coverage across the country.

One of the advantages – or disadvantages (depending upon your perspective) – of being the party of Government is that people often go into a General Election with a better idea of what you’d actually aim to deliver and how. In that sense, the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, can only really repeat the pledges they’ve already made in this area.

NOTE: Ofcom reports that 80% of the UK could already access a gigabit-capable broadband network in Jan 2024 (here), while geographic 4G coverage stands at between 81-88% for all operators. But we don’t yet have a measure for Standalone 5G (SA) coverage, which is a fairly recent enhancement.

The party is currently backing several programmes for improving broadband and mobile. The first is the industry-led £1bn Shared Rural Network project, which aims to boost geographic 4G coverage to 95% of the UK (or 84% for areas where you’ll be able to take it from all operators) by the end of 2025 (part of this is delayed).

In addition, they’ve also set a target for “all populated areas to be covered by ‘standalone’ 5G (5G-plus) [network] by 2030“ (here), although we would have preferred to see a stronger target based on geographic coverage and one that was a bit more binding on the operators.

The final one is their £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which aims to make 1Gbps+ fixed broadband speeds available to at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 and to then push that “nationwide” (c.99%) by 2030.

As above, the new Conservative 2024 Manifesto Document (PDF) doesn’t add anything new and makes two related mentions of broadband and mobile policies. The only slight annoyance below is the unnecessary switch in terminology from “high-speed internet” to “gigabit coverage“, which later changes to “high-speed broadband” (just to be clear, they’re all talking about the same thing – gigabit speeds):

➤ “We have transformed our digital infrastructure by rolling out gigabit broadband to over a million hard to reach premises, helping to deliver high-speed internet to over 80% of the country. We are set to achieve at least 85% gigabit coverage of the UK by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2030. Our ambition is for all populated areas to be covered by ‘standalone’ 5G mobile connectivity and to keep the UK at the forefront of adopting and developing 6G.”

➤ “Over 80% of properties across the country can now access high-speed broadband, up from just 7% in 2019, with a record £714 million committed to boosting rural broadband coverage in 2024. We will invest in new technology to achieve our ambitious broadband targets for hard-to-reach areas.”

At present, the first 2025 pledge (85%) for gigabit broadband under Project Gigabit looks likely to be exceeded. Ofcom currently forecasts that gigabit coverage will reach around 87-91% by May 2025 (here), albeit thanks mostly to commercial builds. But the 2030 goal for “nationwide” (c.99% of the UK) coverage will still be a challenge, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it fell a little short.

By comparison, the party’s targets for 4G and 5G mobile coverage have, in the past, often been a bit of a mixed bag, and it doesn’t help that gauging the progress of mobile coverage remains notoriously difficult due to the highly variable environment for related signals and performance. The SRN shows just how challenging such projects can be, particularly with so many unknowns around planning approvals (i.e. local opposition) and the current delays (here), thus it remains unclear how close the country will get to hitting these mobile targets.

NOTE: Readers should always take political pledges, from any party, with a pinch of salt until there’s more solid detail (something manifestos often lack). We also ask readers who comment on these manifestos to kindly avoid the usual level of toxic and abusive political commentary that sadly sometimes flows from such debates (such comments may not be approved).
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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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10 Responses
  1. Avatar photo The Dobbist Dobby says:

    ‘Ugh, we all know how Mark votes then’ [sarcasm intended]

    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      Hey there now, if all parties only released at the same time.. Although that would send everyone into overdrive and be very confusing. Labour’s is apparently on Thursday from what I heard it could be only 30 pages, doubt there’s anything regarding broadband/mobile. Likely will just be following on.

      Although I could be very well wrong with that, will have to wait and see what happens on thursday if I was correct or not.

    2. Avatar photo Dobby says:

      Given that the establishment parties are all basically the same anyways it could still apply 😉

  2. Avatar photo William Wilkinson says:

    To be fair, the roll out of fibre and 4/5g und the Conservatives has been a big success. It would seem strange to try and change something that’s worked so well.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      That’ not public perception. Amongst lay people the perception is that coverage is worse than it is, and progress slower. Amongst people who follow these matters, there’s a pretty widespread and accurate view that government delivery programmes have been slow, erratic and inefficient, that the build of multiple competing infrastructures has led to massive over-build for areas already with coverage, with only a tiny proportion of first time build, and pretty weak progress on extending rural and notspot mobile coverage. As a fine example, I’ve got a choice of three gigabit capable networks, that’s no help to the millions stuck on EOL, ADSL, or sub-par FTTC.

    2. Avatar photo sam says:

      Agreed, it is the responsibility of the govt to ensure rollouts are smoother, and there were positive moves like the wayleave rules that had a good balance between helping us and not trampling on property rights too much

      If anything, they’ve spent far too much on subsidies which divert from the builds that yield more homes quicker. Should’ve just cut the VAT and other taxes on telecoms

    3. Avatar photo Sonic says:

      Andrew G – exactly. I couldn’t tell if William Wilkinson’s comment was tongue in cheek but probably not.

      I live in a popular urban residential area in a city and barely get 1 bar of 4G across all providers. Speed tests always report <5 Mbps of speed with speeds dropping frequently below 1 Mbps. And I can confirm that coverage and data speeds have /declined/ in the past few years (it has been especially bad since the 3G switch-off). Feel utterly helpless and no one will listen (tried contacting my local Conservative MP multiple times).

      And if you get out of the populated areas and go for a drive? Yeah good luck with that. I actually have to download songs on my phone so I can stream them to the car.

      And of course I have no full fibre either (I get 60-ish Mbps on VDSL and no Virgin either). But Openreach has announced that they will build here in 2025.

      So no, despite having a sitting Conservative MP, it has NOT been a success story for us.

    4. Avatar photo John says:

      The above comment makes no sense, if someone at Trolli is planning their rollout he is not going to say “oh whoops we can’t roll out there because it’s ruled by a labour MP, let’s roll over yonder instead because it has a conservative MP”

      Blame OR for not having infrastructure to your neighborhood instead. Even plenty of patches in London have this problem

    5. Avatar photo Diver Fred says:

      Sorry; the role out of Fibre is a Disaster! Thanks to OfCom and the government in early 1990’s when they stopped BT from fibre’ing up the country on the grounds it was anti-competitive we now see HMG funding multiple miscellaneous companies to catch-up with the rest of the world. Ask people in Towns and housing estates how happy there are with 2,3 AltNet’s digging their roads etc to get their own fibre runs in. Do they want BT, VMO2, and 2 or 3 more providers of fibre when all anyone needs is 1 reliable feed and there roads not being dug up all the time.
      In villages we see BT and an AltNet providing FTTP at a pace but the AltNet(s) is ‘Cherry Picking’ the easy to get customers leaving BT with the difficult to reach or access customers.

  3. Avatar photo Steve says:

    Success, certainly not in our area. Just two miles away multiple fibre providers for the same area, lots of overbuild. Here, nothing. I’m mindful of install complexity in rural areas, but can’t accept no organisation know anything about the challenges. Just be transparent. Contracts have just been awarded to a altnet, I’ve asked for some high level information, however not surprised that all those who are responsible for the funding cant or won’t enlighten us.

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