Matt Hancock speaking at the Full Fibre Investment Conference

Good morning everybody and a very warm welcome to this vital event

How fitting that we are at the Tate Modern today. A one time power station that has been adapted and repurposed as a haven for modernity and cutting edge ideas.

And it is with this spirit that I want to approach the subject of connectivity. We need to look ahead to the future. And the future is full fibre.

Today is a particularly timely moment to hold this conference. Only this week, UK-based firm CityFibre received 537 million pounds of investment from some of Wall Street’s biggest hitters.

This plainly shows how the world’s greatest financial players see the huge opportunities for full fibre in the UK.

And it also demonstrates that full fibre is a thriving global market and that governments need to lead the way in making this country an attractive place to compete and invest.

This adds to investment secured by Hyperoptic, KCom, Community Fibre, and commitments by TalkTalk, Openreach and others over the past few months. But I want to see more.

This investment is win-win.

Not only does it make economic sense but it also supports the digital change that will transform this country for the better.

I want to create a world-leading environment for investment in full fibre. Especially as we are a world-leader on super-fast broadband but we are further down the pack when it comes to full fibre networks, with only 3% coverage.

We will strain every sinew to make it attractive to invest in full fibre and 5G.

And today I wanted to talk about three reasons why full fibre is the most important show in town. Because it offers greater capacity to meet growing demand, because there is real support to reduce costs and because it offers a fair return on investment.

Greater capacity to meet growing demand

First, full fibre is vital to building the capacity that this country needs.

Our future prosperity and productivity depends on all of us embracing the new technology that is on offer.

Later today, I will be speaking at the launch of the AI sector deal.

This commits government and industry, working in partnership, to a billion pounds of support - to make sure that the UK stays in the first rank of AI economies.

Whilst the right skills and research frameworks for AI are vital, this is only one side of the coin.

So when I go there I will also be talking about the importance of world class digital infrastructure, and especially full fibre.

This is an opportunity to unlock so much potential in the UK economy. And we will need full fibre to underpin that competitive, productive and outward looking economy.

Our need for speed grows daily. Not just for downloading but greater upload speeds too. As the relentless rise in data usage continues, this will only become more true over time.

There is a huge growth opportunity here and we will be supporting companies across the UK as they seek to invest and build capacity.

We have put in place a multi-million pound Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund to boost network growth.

And our Local Full Fibre Networks programme is looking to bring the opportunities of full fibre closer to homes and businesses, especially SMEs.

Reducing costs

Secondly, I want to make us one of the easiest places in the world to deploy new telecoms infrastructure.

And one of the biggest roles Government can play is making sure that your plans aren’t held up or made more expensive by deep-rooted issues like navigating wayleaves, dealing with restrictive planning laws, and inconsistent access to public sites.

I’ve set up the Barrier Busting Taskforce to deliver on this. They have already had real successes at a local level, and are working on policies to make your lives easier, wherever in the UK you want to invest.

And the Barrier Busting team stands ready to support you all in your work.

Ofcom is also helping to drive cost reduction through promoting infrastructure sharing and setting a clear framework for a competitive and collegiate telecoms industry.

And our friends in the Treasury are also supporting investment through offering business rates relief for operators who install new fibre.

I know that many of you have already made huge strides in reducing the cost of full fibre.

In recent years, we have seen state of the art techniques to make it cheaper and less time-consuming than ever before to roll-out full fibre.

And as costs get lower and installation gets easier, full fibre will become even more attractive for investors.

Fair returns on investment

Which brings me on to my third and final message today. Full fibre is a sound and safe investment, which will power our economy and provide immense social benefits for us all.

Investors are increasingly becoming aware of the huge potential demand for full fibre, connecting homes and businesses and supporting the rollout of 5G, and underpinning the digital revolution.

This digital revolution will drive new products and services, like 5G, remote healthcare and some products that our pioneers have yet to discover.

And this seismic change is taking place across the world. This is a competitive global landscape. And the UK is open for investment.

Along with Ofcom, we will support potential investors every step of the way. When you are making investments that carry risk, Government will ensure you can benefit from a stable and predictable environment.

And a regulatory environment that promotes sustainable competition and allows you to make a fair return.

Work is underway to look at how we can create the best possible market structure to drive investment through our Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.

We are already seeing real momentum. Recently we’ve had some major commitments to full fibre investment, including from many of you in this room today.

The UK has one of the world’s leading digital economies and flourishing industries in fintech, creative industries and new technologies like AI.

We have the demand. We just need the supply. And that is where you come in.

Conclusion

As we saw when we moved from dial-up to broadband. full fibre presents colossal opportunities to transform our lives and our economy.

Full fibre is coming. We can’t fight new technology, we can only shape it and make the most of it.

Those that rally against full fibre will join the leagues of those who protested against the Victorian railways and those who pine for the days of the Betamax.

Full fibre is the future.

So please, put all your energy behind this crucial technology and let’s work together to make it happen.

The Government is ready. Ofcom is ready. The question I want to leave you with is this: are you ready?

Thank you very much and have a fantastic day.

 

From:
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

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