The UK government has unveiled three new initiatives aimed at transforming the country into an international leader in telecommunications. Announced by Technology Minister Sir John Whittingdale during London Tech Week, these plans include providing satellite broadband to a remote Scottish area, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Australia, and the implementation of ‘smart lampposts’.
Firstly, the island of Papa Stour in the Shetland Islands will begin receiving space-based internet access through OneWeb this week. Clarus Networks Group is installing a Kymeta flat panel that will link to OneWeb’s constellation of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, providing internet connectivity to the remote community. This marks the first commercial roll-out in Europe and is part of the government’s ‘Alpha Trial’ program which aims to explore the viability of LEO satellite-based broadband in remote areas. OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said, “Connectivity is vital for all but especially so for the most remote communities, and we are delighted to be working with the government and our partners on this trial to bring high-speed, low latency connectivity to those living and working on the island.”
Secondly, the Smart Infrastructure Pilots Programme (SIPP) was announced, offering up to £1.5 million (matched by ‘smart service providers’) for six local authority-led pilots. The competition will determine the beneficiaries, with the goal of deploying ‘advanced digital infrastructure’, such as smart lampposts. These multifunctional structures provide a range of services like improved mobile network connectivity through small cells, public wifi, electric vehicle charging, as well as public safety and environmental monitoring. Technology and Decarbonisation Minister Jesse Norman said, “This programme will boost connectivity across the country and increase electric vehicle charging access, helping us reach our net-zero goals.”
Lastly, an MoU on telecoms diversification has been signed with Australia for the development of open and interoperable solutions such as open RAN. Although details regarding the collaboration remain unclear, the initiatives, on the whole, suggest a positive direction for the UK’s telecoms industry.
The government’s efforts to improve connectivity, explore new technology and collaborate with international partners show a commitment to making the UK a global leader in telecommunications. By ensuring various schemes, pilots, and funding opportunities are available, the government is constantly seeking ways to develop and expand the industry.