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Full-fiber broadband not only answer to UK connectivity plans, MP says

The United Kingdom is prepared to use 5G and gigabit-capable technology to deliver faster internet speeds, culture secretary Nicky Morgan said Oct. 16.

Pressed by fellow members of parliament on the feasibility of meeting a target for full-fiber broadband nationwide by 2025, Morgan said, "I am saying 2025" — though she admitted that was a "very ambitious" goal.

"The hope is to use full-fiber-to-the-premises, but that may not be the answer everywhere," Morgan said, adding that gigabit-capable internet or 5G broadband may be better suited in some places.

Full-fiber broadband is currently available in 8% of U.K. premises, up from 7% in May, according to U.K. media regulator Ofcom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to make it 100% by 2025, eight years ahead of the original target, with the help of government funding and new legislation.

Member of Parliament Damian Collins asked whether the decision to use additional connectivity methods meant that the government's policy had "evolved."

Morgan responded that policy had to evolve to keep pace, adding that the main objective was to deliver faster internet speeds to the public to enable rapid media downloads, high-power gaming and video streaming.

Leading broadband providers in the region have raised concerns over the funding, technology and manpower required to meet the government's full-fiber target.

For instance, O2 (Europe) Ltd.'s chief executive previously said 5G would offer a lower-cost alternative to full-fiber in delivering connections to remote areas.

BT Group's CEO estimated that about £30 billion would be required to bring all properties up to full-fiber speed — an infrastructure upgrade that involves switching older copper cables with high-speed optical lines going into buildings. Rival Virgin Media has said "regulatory relief" would be required to help smaller operators.

Asked whether the government would release regular progress reports on the rollout, Morgan said it was prepared to keep members of Parliament in the loop but warned it may face difficulties obtaining that data from broadband providers.