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UK set for £1BN broadband boost to ensure fast fibre future

Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce investment in fibre and 5G as part of the Autumn Statement on Wednesday.

Fibre has arrived in the UK, but needs an injection of cash from the government to speed up rollout.
UIG via Getty Images

Millions of homes and businesses across the UK can look forward to "gold standard" broadband internet speeds over the next few years.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is set to pledge £1 billion toward improving the digital infrastructure of the UK in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday, the Treasury said in a press release. The money will be invested in upgrading the UK to "full-fibre" broadband and in a wave of 5G trials.

The improvements can't come a moment too soon. The British government has acknowledged that while the UK is a leader when it comes to super-fast broadband coverage, the country is falling behind on the rollout of fibre. Only 2 percent of the country has access to full-fibre connections, even though the British economy is increasingly reliant on businesses having fast, reliable internet connections.

With more fibre than a bowl of Cheerios, the promised nippy broadband upgrade can reach speeds of up to a maximum of 1Gbp, which would let you download a season of "Game of Thrones" in less than a minute. It would also promise to be more stable and reliable than traditional copper wires.

Out of the total £1 billion investment, the government will create a £400 million fund that will be used to entice emerging fibre broadband providers to scale up their operations. The fund will be matched by private finance.

"Britain's industrial strategy needs a digital backbone, and it is essential that we move quickly to plug the UK's 'fibre gap' and empower our service-based economy," Greg Mesch, chief executive of CityFibre, the UK's largest alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure, said in a statement.

The chancellor is also expected to announce further rollout of fibre networks, which will be funded by the government and facilitated in partnership with specific local areas across the country. It will simultaneously perform a number of fibre and 5G trials that will help the UK prepare for the next wave of internet innovation.