Max Anderson is a Communications Officer for Bright Blue.
As gas and electricity prices spiral, the cost of living crisis is worsening. Politicians are under increasing pressure to find new solutions to take the burden off stretched household budgets.
Despite Rishi Sunak’s attempts to show himself as the man with all the tax-cutting solutions, his “confused” Spring Statement did little to help those who need it most.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicted the Chancellor’s measures won’t prevent 600,000 people being pulled into poverty.
While the overall focus has been on National Insurance, Income Tax, and Fuel Duty, one potential cost-cutting solution has largely gone unnoticed: 5G broadband.
5G has been ‘claimed’ by Michael Gove’s Levelling Up White Paper as it pushes its Wireless Infrastructure Strategy. This isn’t surprising.
The pandemic highlighted the importance of digital infrastructure, as people struggled to keep their social lives and businesses afloat, exposing how insufficient our digital infrastructure is. Polling by Bright Blue revealed that 53 per cent of people working from home during the pandemic struggled with poor internet.
The Government will be hoping that 5G, and its up to 300Mbps download speed, will play its part in levelling up our digital infrastructure while also providing the wireless broadband speeds to offer the platform for innovative technology to improve other sectors.
Despite a small minority who love burning it down, the importance of 5G infrastructure has been recognised as a tool the Government can exploit for providing better internet, but it needs to be recognised as an opportunity to provide cheaper broadband and lower household bills too.
This is especially true for rural communities, whose reliance on cars for transport has also left them particularly open to the cost of living crisis due to rising fuel prices.
Last year, OfCom found that 30 per cent of UK households, mainly rural and left-behind communities, were still on copper wiring broadband as opposed to full-fibre broadband. Although copper broadband is cheap to maintain, it generally can only provide 10 Mbps. As this speed is seen as too slow for UK households, Openreach have taken the decision to switch off all copper broadband by 2025.
However, installing fibre-optic cabling manually and directly into people’s homes is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming task, with the bill ultimately being passed onto consumers, putting greater pressure on households, or onto the Government through further subsidies.
This means the cost-of-living crisis is only going to get worse for rural and left-behind communities who, in a rush to install fibre-optic to ensure they aren’t cut off in 2025, will have to foot the bill for replacing their copper wiring.
However, fibre-optic’s high cost doesn’t end there. Maintaining these connections directly into every single person’s home is an incredibly expensive job, and this cost will once again be passed onto all consumers.
This is where 5G broadband can offer consumers a solution. 5G broadband removes entirely this last mile bottleneck of cabling. Instead of a cable being directly fitted to your home, 5G provides you with broadband from a tower a mile away, through the airwaves straight to your router.
Broadband companies wouldn’t need to maintain, replace and then charge you for this last mile of cabling, which is one of the most costly elements of broadband.
According to Ovum, 5G broadband has the potential to save UK households £240 a year. For rural and left-behind communities, who will also need to cover the expenses of replacing their copper wiring, the potential savings are even greater.
Installing 5G nationally will not be an easy feat, and is currently seen as the technology of tomorrow and not today.
However, the Government must see the radical and cost-saving difference 5G can make in people’s lives during a time when every household is struggling. It should encourage further 5G investment and prosperity building on what the Levelling Up White Paper has started.
Yet DCMS has struggled to keep pace with the digital revolution, shown by their “botched” Online Safety Bill. For once, the Government needs to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to Britain’s growing digital world and creating infrastructure for innovation and saving consumers money is the perfect two birds with one stone solution.