Connected Britain Conference 2022
20 – 21 September 2022, Business Design Centre, London
Connected Britain Conference reflects the energy, dynamism, and flurry of activity of the UK telecoms sector.
This year’s event, held over two days at the Business Design Centre in London, was rife with a atmosphere of innovation, excitement, and well-balanced optimism as government representatives, ISPs and consultants acknowledged the substantial achievements in the fixed telecoms sector to date, but agreed that the UK still has some way to go in catching up with other European and international countries in terms of full fibre connectivity.
With over 200 speakers covering a range of topics from strategies for successful network delivery methods, Local Authority collaboration techniques to telco sectors reaching sustainability targets. One key item moving up the agenda during this year’s conference was addressing the ever-growing concern of the UK’s digital divide which has become more apparent since the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis.
Ofcom and many ISPs have gone some way in addressing the issues of digital access especially for those on lower incomes, through the introduction of social tariffs and the freezing of monthly subscription charges. However, many Local Authorities assert that there is an ongoing imbalance in digital access especially in terms of urban and rural connectivity.
Project Gigabit is attempting to address this divide through its £5bn funding programme where it will subsidize network rollouts in those areas not being covered by commercial builds, which is currently about 80% of the country. Many in the sector however, remain critical of the overly complex and timely procurement process involved with the programme.
Other concerns raised by ISPs was the upcoming One Touch Switching deadline of April 2023 and the lack of readiness by many suppliers to implement the necessary measures for the process. An Ofcom representative stated that they were not aware of any issues for suppliers despite formal written notification being given to the regulator. It is clear that there will inevitably be some teething issues with the process and Ofcom will now need to decide if it extends the deadline or offers more support to those providers.
The conference was however a very positive reflection of the UK telecoms sector as a whole. The successful expansion of the telecoms market in recent years due to the proliferation of AltNet providers has created one of the most competitive and robust sectors in the UK. This year’s conference underscored the achievements of the digital sector whilst highlighting the importance of continued collaboration between the larger providers, AltNets and the government to reduce barriers and ensure a sustainable and competitive market.