Chancellor George Osborne is hoping to secure the UK economy’s future by investing in the Internet of Things and smart cities, supported by a better digital communications infrastructure. (See also: What is the Internet of Things?)
“We’ll invest in what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances,” he said today in his budget announcement.
"We’re also committing almost £140 million to world class research across the UK into the infrastructure and cities of the future, and giving our national research institutes new budget freedoms."
He added: “All these industries depend on fast broadband.”
Superfast broadband promises...again
According to Osborne, over 80 percent of the UK population has access to superfast broadband, with six million customers of 4G.
The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, run by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), currently has the goal of rolling out superfast broadband to 95 percent of the population by 2017. Under this goal, the government has not specified the speed of ‘superfast’.
Today, Osborne also said that the government wants to invest further in mobile and rural broadband and public wifi.
He said: “We’ll use up to £600 million to clear new spectrum bands for further auction, so we improve mobile networks. We’ll test the latest satellite technology so we reach the remotest communities.
“We’ll provide funding for wifi in our public libraries, and expand broadband vouchers to many more cities, so no-one is excluded.”
Meanwhile, Osborne said that the government was “committing to a new national ambition” to bring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes in Britain.
However, this is not the first time this government has promised 100Mbps broadband. Osborne promised £100 million for 10 cities to establish the ‘super connected cities’ in his Autumn Statement in 2011.
The difference this year is presumably the extension to “nearly all homes” in the UK.
Early reaction to the broadband announcement has not been positive, calling into question Osborne's lack of detail.
Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at broadbandchoices, said: "Given that previous deadlines have lapsed without hitting digital targets, it is perhaps unsurprising that no firm date has been stated. It is also apparent that he still doesn’t intend to bring fixed line ultrafast broadband to the rural ‘have-nots’ anytime soon, as he plans to use satellite technology to reach the remotest communities instead.
"Whilst satellite technology has proved to be a lifeline to customers who have no other options available it is still not a permanent solution due to high costs and less generous data allowances, so this is going to be hugely disappointing to thousands of voters who have been continually overlooked in the UK’s digital revolution."
Other technology-related announcements in the budget today include £100 million for driverless cars, support for technology incubators, the Google Tax and a range of initiatives to support the financial technology (fintech) industry.