The Government have ambitious plans to achieve nationwide roll-out of future-proof, gigabit-capable broadband and 5G networks as soon as possible to unlock the huge economic and social benefits this will bring. As we emerge from the covid-19 pandemic, ensuring the whole country has access to world-class digital infrastructure will be critical to our economic recovery.
We are working with industry to target a minimum of 85% gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 and to get as close to 100% as possible. We are also aiming to ensure that 95% of the UK’s geographic landmass has 4G coverage from at least one mobile network operator by 2025 and that the majority of the UK population has 5G coverage by 2027.
My Department is making significant progress, through the implementation of the recommendations made in our “Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review” published in 2018. However, in order to accelerate this work it is important that we deliver the changes that are needed to speed up commercial and public investment in gigabit-capable networks.
The electronic communications code (“the code”) is the legal framework underpinning the rights of telecoms operators to install and keep electronic communications apparatus on public and private land, and to carry out other activities needed to maintain and improve digital communications networks. The code was substantially reformed in 2017. Those reforms specifically recognised the increasing importance of access to fast and reliable digital services for society and the economy. While there have been no substantive changes to the policy underpinning the 2017 reforms, feedback from a wide range of stakeholders suggests further changes may be needed.
I am pleased to inform the House that we have today published a consultation to examine the scope for further legislative changes to the electronic communications code. If we decide changes to the code are needed, these will be focused on supporting our digital networks and ensuring the aims of the 2017 reforms are realised.
Telecommunications policy is reserved and the electronic communications code applies and extends across the UK. As with the 2017 reforms, we will work closely with the devolved Administrations to develop the finalised policy.
I have placed a copy of the consultation in the Libraries of both Houses.
Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2021-01-27/HCWS739/.