Full fibre investment could create over 500,000 jobs by 2026, claims report

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Investment in full fibre and mobile connectivity could boost the UK up international connectivity league tables, unlock more than 500,000 jobs by 2026 and help tackle inequality according to new research from Virgin Media O2 and economic modelling experts Oxford Analytica.

The findings are revealed in the first-ever Digital Connectivity Index which uses thousands of OECD datapoints to measure how individuals and organisations can connect with one another and the rest of the world through high-quality internet access.

The Index, the first of its kind, assesses the quality of connectivity infrastructure across OECD countries and finds the UK is currently ranked joint 8th out of 24 OECD countries publishing complete digital connectivity datasets – just ahead of Germany, Portugal and Ireland.

Between 2011 and 2019, the UK performed better than the OECD average, ranking in the top third of improvers in the Index of Digital Connectivity as billions of pounds of investment in fixed and mobile networks deliver benefits for consumers and businesses.

The Digital Connectivity Index also reveals how upgrading mobile and broadband networks can support economic growth and help the country to level up. Every UK region could benefit with more than 85% of new jobs created outside of London.

The North West may see as many as 56,000 new jobs created while The Midlands and Scotland could benefit from an additional 82,000 and 42,000 roles, respectively. Small and medium sized businesses could be amongst the main winners, creating the lion’s share of the new roles.

Regional economies could see huge boosts too, with gains worth £4.65bn to Yorkshire, £2.46bn to Wales, £5.19bn to the South West and £1.61bn to Northern Ireland.

Says Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media O2:

“The importance of digital connectivity to the UK’s future couldn’t be clearer, and the role we play as an industry more profound.

“With economic growth, new jobs and a fairer society at stake, we’re already taking a lead with a commitment to invest £10 billion over the next five years.

“We’re turning up the dial on the national recovery and helping the country to climb up the international connectivity league tables to create a brighter, more prosperous future for every corner of the UK.”  

Adds Scott Urban, Senior Advisor at Oxford Analytica: 

“The Digital Connectivity Index shows telecom’s key contribution to levelling-up through spurring higher growth and creating new jobs.”

The research has been commissioned by Virgin Media O2, as part of its mission to upgrade the UK. The company has committed to investing at least £10 billion over the next five years, with plans to expand 5G coverage to cover 50% of the population by 2023 and upgrade its entire fixed network to full fibre to the premises by 2028.

This is alongside the company’s continued gigabit rollout which will see 1.1Gbps speeds delivered across its entire broadband network before the end of the year.

Digital Connectivity Index – OECD countries ranked

Country Index Score Rank
Denmark 86 1
Netherlands 81 2
Sweden 80 3
Finland 77 4
Luxembourg 74 5
Estonia 74 5
Slovenia 74 7
Lithuania 72 8
Norway 72 8
Spain 72 8
United Kingdom 72 8
Germany 71 12
Portugal 70 13
Belgium 70 13
Ireland 67 15
Austria 65 16
Czech Republic 62 17
Hungary 60 18
Poland 59 19
France 56 20
Slovak Republic 54 21
Italy 54 21
Latvia 51 23
Greece 49 24


Chris Price
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