New Network Development Initiatives
Civil Engineering companies can expect to be in heavier demand than ever as the next developments in the UK's mobile networks and full-fibre broadband take shape.
Ofcom's Proposals for 2022-2023
Once again the regulatory body for the telecommunications industry is forecasting significant increase in demand for cutting edge services and expects the industries it oversees to undergo dramatic transformations in the next few years. The first of its stated priorities is to stimulate competition in order to create gigabit-capable broadband networks and faster mobile lines. Affordability is a critical concern, and Ofcom also emphasises the need not only for fast, reliable speeds but also heightened security against cyber-attacks and data leaks.
The central themes of its strategy for the coming year include investment in secure networks, extending internet and mobile coverage and promoting wireless services in the broader economy. Its support of high-quality mobile connections will work within the wireless infrastructure strategy drawn up by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which will drive the development, deployment and adoption of both 5G and future networks, making advanced wireless infrastructure an integral element of the UK's economic and social life by the end of the current decade.
Ofcom intends to assess the demand for the mobile spectrum up to 2035 and invite consultation on its plans to enable millimetre-wave spectrum bands for new services like 5G mobile and beyond. As part of this strategy it will support investment in gigabit networks and assume responsibility for enforcement of the new Telecoms Security Act.
The Full-Fibre Rollout Continues
Ofcom has also published a report on the current status of broadband and mobile services in the UK. As the country climbs up the world rankings for internet connectivity, 8 million homes now have access to full-fibre broadband, which is 28% of all households and an increase of 3 million in just one year. The take-up rate is lagging behind, with only a quarter of those homes with access switching to full-fibre. It will be one of Ofcom's tasks to raise consumer awareness of the improved functionality, especially since many householders would be able to upgrade at virtually no extra cost. At the other end of the scale there are still homes without a serviceable broadband connection, which Ofcom seeks urgently to address.
Meanwhile, the 5G rollout continues at speed, with roughly 50% of UK properties now able to access 5G services from at least one network operator. The ownership of 5G enabled handsets increased from 800,000 to over 6 million by the end of 2021. Although 4G is still the dominant technology, accounting for 91% of traffic, analysts believe the tipping point is not far away.
South Essex Full-Fibre
After successfully completing the first phase of a major dark fibre construction project for the Association of South Essex Local Authorities, MLL Telecom has now embarked on an advanced second phase to expand the 130km of fibre to over 200km adding a further 100 connections. MLL is working in collaboration with Nextgenaccess, a specialist fibre infrastructure provider.
The initiative is part of the Suffolk Cloud Partnership Agreement which will see full-fibre connections across Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford and Thurrock. Some of the organisations that will benefit include schools, GP surgeries, care homes, council buildings and fire stations. New capabilities will include Wide Area Network (WAN), voice and data and high-speed access to the internet and the cloud.