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UK Election Special: What Labour's Landslide Election Win Means for the UK's Tech Landscape

With Labour's recent victory in the general election, the spotlight is now on their manifesto pledges to transform the UK's digital infrastructure. This article dissects Labour’s plans for broadband, 5G, and data centres, while also offering our recommendations to the new government to position the UK as a global digital leader.

What Labour's Landslide Election Win Means for the UK's Tech Landscape
UK Election: What Labour's Landslide Election Win Means for the UK's Tech Landscape
Labour's Broadband Acceleration Promise Could Create Billions in Economic Impact

Labour’s manifesto commits to maintaining the current 2030 targets for achieving full gigabit coverage across the UK. This pledge might be viewed as maintaining the current trajectory rather than presenting a transformative vision as it aligns closely with objectives set by the outgoing administration.


However, Labour’s manifesto specifically criticises the Conservative government’s Project Gigabit broadband programme as being “too slow”. By critiquing the current pace and promising acceleration, Labour is suggesting that they would implement their plans more effectively and with greater urgency, potentially streamlining the procurement process to support unserved areas and address perceived inefficiencies in the rollout of commercial fibre networks and the Project Gigabit process.


If Labour can accelerate gigabit capable broadband coverage, our independent economic analysis has shown that accelerating broadband rollout by advancing high speed broadband services to rural areas can save taxpayers GBP 1 billion, while helping consumers benefit by over GBP 3 billion. Therefore, there is merit in accelerating the rollout of broadband.

Labour's Approach to 5G Might Not Be Ambitious but May Be Pragmatic

The Labour manifesto does not specifically outline any plans for 4G. On the face of it this is no big surprise as mobile coverage remains stable for 4G, with around 93% of the UK landmass predicted to have good outdoor 4G coverage from at least one operator. However, our research based on Ofcom figures shows that many regions in the UK are still significantly underserved by 4G coverage with coverage well below the national average. This highlights an issue that cannot be forgotten and that the lack of 4G coverage still need to remain a priority.


Beyond 4G, Labour's commitment focuses on achieving nationwide 5G coverage by 2030. This commitment may seem as though it is in line with the current target to have all populated areas in the UK, including rural communities, to have standalone 5G coverage by 2030. However, a significant difference between Labour and the outgoing government is the omission of the term “standalone” by Labour.


Standalone 5G (SA 5G) networks bring benefits of ultra-low latency support advanced features such as network slicing. However, SA 5G requires significant levels of investment and until now only a handful of UK cities - where the investment can be justified – have benefited from SA 5G networks. Deploying 5G as a non-standalone (NSA 5G) option offers several advantages, including faster deployment by utilising existing 4G infrastructure, creating cost-efficiency through reduced investment requirements.


Labour's approach might appear less ambitious but may be more pragmatic than the status quo. By not limiting their strategy to SA 5G, they may have more flexibility in using a combination of existing and emerging technologies to achieve their coverage goals. This could make their plan more achievable within the given timeframe, especially in rural areas where deploying standalone 5G may not be economically viable. Labour’s manifesto made no reference to 6G.

Creating Data Centres to Transform the UK's digital Infrastructure

One of the key commitments in Labour's manifesto is to remove planning barriers for new data centres, a move that could significantly impact the UK's position in the global data centre market.


Many analysts are forecasting that we need more data centres to support the growing demand for digital services, enhance data processing capabilities, ensure reliable data storage, and drive advancements in cloud computing, all of which are essential for a robust and resilient digital economy.


However, planning barriers can be an issue for operators planning to build new data centres because they can delay construction, increase costs, and complicate the approval process, ultimately hindering their timely development and deployment to meet growing demands.


Labour's manifesto pledge to remove planning barriers for new data centres, could significantly impact the UK's position in the global data centre market. Unlike other industries, data centres do not require extensive transport links, as their operations are primarily digital. This makes them ideal for regions that may lack traditional infrastructure but have the capacity for robust digital connectivity such as the North.


While London and the South East has traditionally been the prime location for data centres in the UK, there's a growing sentiment within the industry to consider the North as an alternative. This shift could decentralise the digital infrastructure and potentially bring economic benefits to other regions. However, it's important to recognise that data centres themselves are not significant job creators. Therefore, their value should be seen as part of a broader strategy to develop the UK's digital and green ecosystems.


Data centres are known for their substantial energy consumption, but they also present an opportunity to catalyse investment in renewable energy. By integrating data centres into a green energy grid, the UK can leverage their energy needs to drive the development of renewable energy sources. Additionally, the heat dissipated by data centres can be repurposed for district heating networks, contributing to sustainable urban / suburban development.

A Pathway for the UK's Digital Future

Labour's recent victory presents a crucial opportunity to advance the UK's digital infrastructure and rethink our approach to public service transformation. Key recommendations for the new government include:


  • Considering lower-cost gigabit wireless technologies to accelerate broadband rollout in hard-to-reach areas and leveraging the UK’s academic and technology talent to commercialise these innovations, thereby supporting a diverse telecoms supply chain.

  • Embracing the removal of planning barriers for new data centres as part of a broader strategy to enhance the UK's digital and green ecosystems, despite data centres themselves not being major job creators.

  • Providing financial incentives and grants to local authorities for the 5G infrastructure rollout, particularly in underserved areas, while also developing a strategic plan for the adoption and development of 6G technology to position the UK as a global leader in next-generation mobile networks.

  • Maintaining a strong focus on 4G by investing in 4G not-spot regions to ensure equitable digital access, bridge the digital divide, and drive digital inclusion, especially in underserved and rural communities.

  • Promoting the use of advanced connectivity and technology to digitally transform the public sector, driving efficiency and cost reductions to deliver more streamlined and effective services for citizens, businesses, and workers.


About Intelligens Consulting

Intelligens Consulting is an award-winning telecoms, digital and technology management consultant with expertise spanning across six key practices: public sector support, transaction advisory, telecoms strategy, enterprise optimisation, research services, and programme delivery. We provide strategic advice, due diligence, market expansion assistance, digital strategy optimisation, subscription research, and project implementation to ensure successful outcomes and drive innovation across our clients in these sectors, globally. Contact us on info@IntelligensConsulting.com should you wish to find out more about our Digital Transformation Programme or anything else discussed in this article. Find us on You Tube | LinkedIn or on our website.


Disclaimer

We are a non-political organisation, and our analysis is undertaken independently; any inferred bias is purely accidental, although we have taken steps to ensure that there is no bias in this analysis.

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