In the past, connectivity was physical and point-to-point, where handwritten notes were physically delivered to single recipients, often taking weeks to arrive. Unproductive and inefficient, but crucial to getting things done. Now, in the Information Age, connectivity is frictionless and instant. What’s productivity’s biggest enemy? Friction. So, a lack of required connectivity could quickly translate into supply shortages and challenges in industrial relations.
Across sectors, enhanced and efficient output supported by innovative connectivity creates an opportunity to scale up, improve profits and enable investment into creating skilled jobs that support local economies. Each of these plays a role in supporting lasting prosperity.
Connectivity is not just about linking people and places. It is about supporting productivity and driving success. With resources pointed towards building a highly connected nation, we witness the necessary foundations being put in place towards building prosperity. This is critical as the UK looks ahead to years of economic strife.
Robust 5G connectivity brings forth several benefits, indiscriminate of sector or industry. High bandwidth and strong 5G capacity can support complex and demanding environments and ensure operational effectiveness. Reduced latency will allow innovation – whether automation, robotics or artificial intelligence (AI) – to be embraced. However, our ultimate challenge is transforming these novel techniques or technologies into actual GDP. What does this mean? The UK and similar nations require the right foundations to employ new tech.
Transport is the backbone of our economy – without an efficient system, the UK would grind to a halt. In transport and logistics, supply chain issues have increased demand for operational effectiveness. Commuters also seek to use their time effectively, building it into their working day. Ports, airports and railways must look to revolutionise their connectivity across the nation to upgrade services, reduce costs, manage security and increase efficiency. In particular, opportunity lies in the rail sector as a critical enabler for growth, generating an income that doubles every pound spent.
Rail provision is no longer solely focused on transport but on mobility. Placing digital connectivity at the centre of future rail investment creates enormous opportunities to drive sustained growth countrywide. Its broader impact reaches beyond a fully-connected journey for passengers. It can deliver better connectivity to track-side businesses and, in turn, help to drive local economic growth, create highly skilled jobs and support businesses whilst promoting digital inclusion.
This critical link between connectivity and productivity is not new intelligence. In fact, it has enjoyed a prominent parliamentary focus in the past year. Levelling up and Project Gigabit are designed to boost productivity and living standards in the areas that need support the most, meaning the UK is already making progress.
Naturally, barriers and loopholes will result in delays, but we are now entering a new era of reform. Our industry-wide ‘Speed Up Britain’ campaign successfully resulted in essential changes to the Electronic Communications Code to streamline new site applications. The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill seeks to encourage faster and more collaborative negotiations of tower installation on private land.
Telecoms connectivity underpins all of this. What has hitherto been viewed as buzz phrases (Internet of Things, Smart Cities, Connected Society etc.) are rapidly becoming a reality. In turn, these ‘buzz phrases’ are critical building blocks for a more productive and prosperous economy. Innovation by industry is essential to boost growth and productivity. This was a focus of the recent Autumn budget, with an additional £20bilion ringfenced for R&D in the next two years. This is commendable but ultimately useless if new technology cannot effectively deploy without a robust telecoms infrastructure to deliver reliable connectivity. We have no time to lose.
With businesses now facing the challenges of recession, and anticipating customer demand, working towards implementing connectivity more broadly across the UK will be critical as the ‘coverage over capacity’ mindset is changing. This shared challenge requires a collaborative approach – the Government, telecoms sector, industry bodies, private sector organisations, and disruptors must come together. Establishing a nationwide connection that gives both the capacity and capability to do more will allow industries and organisations to become more proactive and profitable.