Autumn Statement: Fibre Broadband and 5G for Everyone! (Maybe)

By James O Malley on at

Chancellor Phillip Hammond today delivered the Autumn Statement - the government's second most important financial statement to Parliament in each year. There was lots of numbers, lots of forecasts, and some rubbish jokes.

The big news though was the creation of a new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF). This will have £23bn to dish out to various causes to, umm, boost national productivity. Some of the cash is being spent on increasing the housing supply - but more interestingly for Giz, the government is spending £1bn over all (of which £740m comes from the fund) on "full fibre" broadband and 5G.

"This will bring faster and more reliable broadband for homes and businesses across the UK, boost the next generation of mobile connectivity and keep the UK in the forefront of the development of the Internet of Things", the official text of the statement says. £400m will apparently go into a "Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund", and thus will matched by private investment - so perhaps we could see Fibre-to-the-Home rather than just Fibre-only-to-the-Cabinet-down-your-street become more common.

Businesses will also receive 100% rate relief for the next five years on full-fibre infrastructure, to encourage them to get installing.

The government also says that it wants to "keep the UK at the forefront of the global 5G revolution", the government promising a "5G strategy" by the time of the next Budget, in spring next year.

There were other interesting tidbits in the Statement relating to science and technology too. The NPIF will also be splashing some cash on £4.7bn of addition research and development funding, and a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will be created. This is designed to be like DARPA is for the American government - so soon our government could be funding all sorts of weird projects.

And if you're into trains - then hooray for you - but also you'll be excited to learn that £450m of the NPIF will also be spent on digital signalling to boost rail capacity, and £80m will be spent on making smart ticketing more of a thing, to save us having to carry around printed tickets.

It'll be interesting to see in the coming weeks and months how these projects all turn into tangible actual things. Let's just hope the new, more pessimistic growth forecasts thanks to Brexit don't scupper the plans.