Key to growth could lie beneath our streets

A new report has demonstrated the billions of pounds of productivity, innovation and employment benefits that could be unlocked by the widespread construction of full fibre networks, suggesting that the solution to Britain’s productivity woes and stagnating growth could lie beneath our feet.

The study by economic consultancy Regeneris, commissioned by digital infrastructure builder CityFibre, examined ten areas of the UK economy likely to benefit from full fibre roll-outs. It also sought to quantify the impact of each of these areas in 100 distinct UK town and city economies over a 15-year period.

According to researchers, the UK’s business community, most particularly its small and medium sized companies, could stand to benefit enormously. Access to full fibre could unlock £4.5bn in business productivity, innovation and access to new markets in these locations; a further £2.3bn in growth could be driven from catalysing new business start-ups; while the increased ability for companies to support flexible working could add £1.9bn.

The UK’s homeowners and wider property market can also expect to reap rewards. With access to reliable, high speed broadband becoming ever-more important to buyers, up to £7bn could be added to the value of homes. What’s more, by expanding the range of physical services that can be accessed digitally such as e-commerce and telecommuting, the nation’s consumers and workers could reduce their carbon emissions by over 2.3m tonnes.


Further benefits

The economic impacts unlocked by full fibre in these 100 locations will extend much further. Full fibre is an essential platform for the roll-out of 5G, unleashing £28bn in benefits, as well as for the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, where £10bn in benefits can be expected. Wider Smart City enablement, from infrastructure and services to smart energy networks could add as much as £5bn in the 100 locations examined in the report, while technological improvements in the delivery of healthcare services are worth £1.1bn.

Crucially the network roll-out itself would drive £2.1bn direct economic growth and at the height of deployment close to 7000 jobs would be created in the construction and civil engineering sectors.

While the report does not seek to provide one single economic impact figure, it does add to the growing body of evidence pointing to the immense scale and scope of economic uplift that is likely be created by full fibre, over and above today’s broadband infrastructure. Research from the FTTH Council in the US suggests that providing full fibre to just half of all premises in a location could result in a 1.1% rise in annual GDP. Applying this to the 100 distinct city and town economies in the Regeneris report indicates total economic impact of full fibre in these places alone could be in the range of £120bn. Nationwide full fibre coverage across the UK, would therefore be much higher.

Commenting the report, Simon Hooton, Director at Regeneris, said: “Our findings clearly indicate that full fibre will provide the core infrastructure required to kick start the next generation of digital technology and drive expansion of smart infrastructure in towns and cities where it is deployed. The result will be a modernised, more productive and innovative UK economy.”


Accelerated roll-out

CityFibre is now calling for an accelerated roll-out of full-fibre infrastructure, supported by a clear political and regulatory plan that will maximise the investment potential of the multiple players now looking to deploy these networks. It is also arguing that the new findings add further weight to the argument that the ASA should reverse its decision to approve the continued use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe services delivered over copper-based networks.

Greg Mesch, CEO at CityFibre, explained: “The UK economy is crying out for a shot in the arm and this report clearly demonstrates that a national full fibre roll-out would do just that. This is a discussion about far more than just broadband, it is about the digital infrastructure set to power our economy for decades to come.

“CityFibre’s roll-out across our 42 towns and cities is under-way, and we are on track to deliver our goal of full fibre in 100 towns and cities. Given the size of the prize for the UK, all players, from industry, government, and Ofcom, need to focus on setting the conditions needed to deliver the maximum possible coverage in the shortest possible time. Only then will we unlock and unleash the full economic potential of full fibre, and that of the towns and cities in which it is built.”

Related reading