How 6G will provide a huge leap in UK's digital transformation: John Whittingdale

The economy of the future won’t be powered by sail or coal, boat or barge - it will be powered by digital infrastructure. It is only with connectivity that we can deliver on our ambition to build the most innovative economy in the world.

Embedding innovation in our economy must deliver real benefits for each and every British person. For that very reason, this government is on a mission to ensure that communities and businesses up and down the country have the secure, reliable and high-quality connectivity they need.

That connectivity is, and will continue to be, an engine of economic growth - creating jobs, and delivering the kind of bold new discoveries which will put the UK right at the cutting edge of science and technology.

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Our plan to make that mission a success is clear, comprehensive, and unapologetically ambitious.

John Whittingdale is Minister for Digital InfrastructureJohn Whittingdale is Minister for Digital Infrastructure
John Whittingdale is Minister for Digital Infrastructure

First and foremost, we remain relentlessly focused on working with the telecoms industry to drive the deployment of fixed and wireless broadband, to deliver the connectivity which British people need today.

But even as we do that, we’re looking ahead to tomorrow, by investing in the technologies that will transform the telecoms industry and the global economy.

And finally, we’re ensuring at every stage that our telecoms networks are secure and resilient.

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Driving the deployment of fixed and wireless broadband is a centrepiece of the government’s work.

We have set an ambitious goal to ensure future proof and resilient gigabit broadband to 85 per cent of the UK by 2025 and to over 99 per cent by 2030 and we continue to make progress towards meeting this ambition.

Working in partnership with industry and Ofcom, our policies have helped us collectively increase gigabit broadband to 77 per cent up from just 6 per cent in 2018, largely driven by competition.

We remain firmly committed to wholesale competition in the broadband market being the best strategy to meet our strategic objectives.

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As well as delivering connectivity today we are also looking ahead to focus on the opportunities that telecoms will bring to the UK tomorrow.

The government has identified future telecoms as one of the five critical technologies that will underpin the transformation of modern British society and our economy.

The next generation of telecoms, including 6G, should see a huge leap in digital transformation. From the expansion of satellite communications to provide near universal coverage and reducing the rural connectivity divide - to the use of drones in networks to provide energy efficient and flexible deployment.

We will build our existing strengths in foundational research and early-stage innovation to ensure that new discoveries benefit the British public and put us at the heart of the global telecoms market, delivering our ambition to be a science and tech superpower.

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Earlier this year, we announced our plans to initially invest up to £100 million to support innovators and ensure the UK is a pioneer in future telecoms and 6G research and development. We expect competitions to launch in early October and welcome the robust enthusiasm from the sector to-date. I’m excited to see the pioneering work the winners will be working on over the next few years.

John Whittingdale is Minister for Digital Infrastructure. This is an edited version of a recent speech.