The Government has today (June 16) published its final Digital Britain report, which sets out its agenda to put Britain at the front of global digital economy.
From a mobile industry point of view, the major issue in the report is the Government’s promise to provide universal broadband speeds of 2Mbps to all UK residents by 2012. More than 10 per cent of the population cannot access such speeds, said the report.
The Government will achieve its commitment to univseral 2Mbps broadband through a mix of DSL, fibre, mobile and satellite technologies, and will bankroll it with £200 million in direct public funding and additional private sector contributions.
‘The Network Design and Procurement Group’, a body to oversee delivery of the national broadband upgrade, will be in place by the end of July and operate at “arm’s length from central Government”.
Funding for the Government’s Next Generation Network will come from a 50p monthly supplement on all consumers’ fixed lines in the UK, equating to £6 per year per head, and already dubbed the ‘broadband tax’.
As part of the undertaking, the Government is to look to resolve issues around spectrum allocation to mobile network operators.
It said it will have an “independently produced guiding technical arbitration on the timing and cost of 900 refarming, paid for by an industry fund,” by the end of September.
As it stands Vodafone and O2 are the only network operators to utilise the 900MHz spectrum, which is faster and more robust than the 1800MHz spectrum used by Orange, T-Mobile and 3.
The proposed refarming of the 800MHz band, which comes free with the switchover from analogue to digital television, will be too late to fulfill Government criteria, argue the trio.
The report also included ambitious plans for restructuring the BBC and creating a second major public service provider, modernising wireless radio spectrum and digital radio, revising digital content rights, and enhancing the digital delivery information about public services.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on publication of the report: “Only a Digital Britain can unlock the imagination and creativity that will secure for us and our children the highly skilled jobs of the future. Only a Digital Britain will secure the wonders of an information revolution that could transform every part of our lives. Only a Digital Britain will enable us to demonstrate the vision and dynamism that we have to shape the future.”
He also said in a press conference ahead of the announcement: “Britain is going to lead the world. This is us taking the next step into the future to being the digital capital of the world. It is making sure no family or business misses out,” he said.
“The digital revolution is changing all our lives beyond recognition and today we shall set out how Britain must change with it. Whether it is to work online, study, learn new skills, pay bills or simply stay in touch with friends and family, a fast internet connection is now seen by most of the public as an essential service, as indispensable as electricity, gas and water.”
The broader Digital Britain report, led by communications minsiter Lord Stephen Carter, outlined five Government objectives:
- Modernising and upgrading our wired, wireless and broadcasting infrastructure to sustain Britain’s position as a leading digital economy
- Providing a favourable climate for investment and innovation in digital content, applications and services
- Securing a range of high quality public service content, particularly in news
- Developing the nation’s digital skills at all levels
- Securing universal access to broadband, increasing its take-up and using broadband to deliver more public services more effectively and more