The chancellor has earmarked half a billion pounds for nurturing the country’s AI research and boosting the UK’s digital infrastructure, with investments in 5G and full-fibre broadband. Just £75m will be allocated to AI, of which £45m will fund 200 new AI PhD places a year. About £160m of this investment will aid in developing nation-wide 5G networks. This amount is in addition to the £16m that the Chancellor committed in the Spring Budget for an “innovation network” to collaborate with three research institutions – the University of Bristol, the University of Surrey and King’s College London.
The Autumn Budget committed funding and supporting innovative regulatory changes and setting up a geo-spacial data commission that will use the Government’s geographic data to spearhead economic growth.
In their 2017 manifesto, the Conservative party pledged to have 10 million premises connected to FTTH networks by 2022. Analysts were quick to applaud the investment, saying that the U.K. must act now to avoid being left behind in the race for gigabit connectivity.
“5G will have a huge impact, the UK’s demand for capacity is insatiable; 5G and fibre networks are required to quench that thirst as 4G capacity is exhausted,” said Paul Lee, head of telecommunications research at Deloitte.
The Chancellor said: “A new tech business is founded in Britain every hour, and I want that to be every half hour, so today we invest over £500m in a range of initiative from artificial intelligence to 5G and full-fibre broadband. We’ll support regulatory innovation with a new regulators pioneer fund and a new geo-spacial data commission to develop a strategy for using the Gov’s location data to support economic growth and to help our tech start-ups reach scale.”
Mark Evans, O2’s CEO, said that the announcement was welcome but also observed that there is a need for more collaboration between private operator companies to realise the UK’s 5G potential.