Independent full-fibre infrastructure platform provider CityFibre has released a report highlighting the extent to which the delivery of full-fibre networks could support the UK government’s nationwide levelling-up programme by unlocking economic growth and reducing the digital divide in areas of the country that currently experience vast differences in coverage and service quality.
The research, by consultancy Hatch – Economic impact of full-fibre infrastructure from CityFibre’s network – also identified more than £38bn in potential economic benefits over a 15-year period, stemming from CityFibre’s roll-out of future-proof full-fibre infrastructure in 285 cities, towns and villages in England and Scotland.
The study said productivity improvements and innovation would be responsible for the largest impact, driving more than £22bn in gross value added (GVA) gains nationwide. This was said to be due to the positive effect that far faster and more reliable digital connectivity has been shown to have on business productivity and innovation, increasing turnover and contributing to the formation of new businesses and business models.
The continuing transition to home and flexible working, supported by full-fibre access at home and in the office, coupled with advances in the development of e-recruitment software, contribute to businesses being able to exercise greater choice from a larger pool of labour, the report said. This widening of the workforce was expected to unleash £4.8bn in GVA, while flexible working productivity uplifts were estimated to exceed £1.2bn. The report also identified up to £15bn added to the value of homes reached by the new networks.
The study also considered the wider benefits that go beyond the core economic benefits of deployment. CityFibre insisted that as a “future-proofed” digital infrastructure platform, full-fibre is a critical enabler of new technologies that are expected to have a major impact on our society and economy. The report claimed that CityFibre networks will help to unlock £53bn in GVA from 5G services, £16bn from the internet of things and £9.3bn from smart city initiatives.
The shift from copper networks to more energy-efficient full-fibre networks was also calculated to save more than two million tonnes of CO2 emissions. The direct impact of network construction was also identified as a major contributor of economic growth, creating 16,400 jobs within the infrastructure provider’s build partners and supply chain. The report attributed the new jobs as generating an estimated £1.8bn in incremental GVA, with most regionally recruited to support local build projects.
Perhaps of greatest interest as gigabit connectivity deployment is accelerated across the UK, the report also identified the regional economic impact of the network firm’s roll-out programme, highlighting its positive role in supporting the government’s levelling-up agenda.
CityFibre regards itself as providing a crucial economic boost to regions that the government has identified as most in need of levelling-up funding, including a high proportion of locations ranked as being in the 10% most deprived parts of England. The report pinpointed the North as the region that stands to be the biggest beneficiary, with the roll-out spanning more than 100 locations across the North-East, the North-West and Yorkshire.
The study said the positive impact on the North will include £8bn in productivity and innovation gains, £1.5bn from a widened workforce, £410m in local authority efficiency savings and £4bn in increased house values.
CityFibre chief executive Greg Mesch said: “This report demonstrates just how powerful a tool full fibre is in levelling up the UK. Digital infrastructure competition is driving billions of pounds of private investment from incumbents and challengers and every pound spent is unlocking economic growth, new jobs and more efficient public services in some of the most deprived parts of the country. We are delighted to see the impact of our contribution and we look forward to playing an ever-larger role in future.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, added: “This report from CityFibre highlights the huge productivity boost full fibre can give the economy and is a critical part of levelling up, with the north of England standing to benefit the most from private-led investment. It is now the role of government to make sure that any public investment maximises what can be achieved through piggybacking on these benefits derived from effective competition.”