Wednesday’s budget saw a number of announcements that were welcomed by the UK technology sector – particularly in the areas of autonomous vehicles and 5G. George Osborne’s announcement committed the UK to delivering a 5G strategy next year and delivering a ‘big data hub’ for the Office for National Statistics, as well as plans to relax regulations surrounding connected cars.
The investment in 5G aims to explore how the UK can become a “world leader” in 5G deployment and how it can “take early advantage of the potential benefits of 5G services.” This 5G push will include the development of a network planning tool, which will be trialled in Bournemouth in 2017.
On the 5G initiatives Raj Sivalingam, techUK’s Executive Director for Telecommunications and Spectrum, commented: “We welcome the plan to develop a UK strategy on 5G. As well as identifying opportunities for UK development of key 5G technologies and innovative networks, it is vital that the strategy also focuses on the applications of 5G in the wider economy, from entertainment and sport to healthcare and transport. The strategy should address what needs to be done to remove barriers and encourage adoption.”
However, wider connectivity issues across the country have led some to question the 5G commitment. Some areas still suffer from ‘not-spots’ - where access to enterprise grade Wi-Fi is lacking, particularly in rural areas.
Tim Patrick-Smith, CIO of IT services company Getronics, said: “It’s disappointing to see a lack of commitment to resolving the issue that many areas of the UK remain poorly served, in terms of communications and connectivity services. These are the lifeblood of a modern economy.”
Osborne also committed to conducting trials of driverless cars, with a consultation planned this summer to investigate relaxing regulation for autonomous vehicles on major roads in England. A £15m ‘connected corridor’ between London and Dover will also enable vehicles to interact with infrastructure and, “potentially other vehicles.”
Despite these announcement, the general feeling within the technology sector was that the budget was somewhat tech-light. Unlike last years’ announcement, there was no mention of ‘Big Data’ or the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn criticised the Chancellor for a cuts to science spending, and loss of jobs in the renewables market – solar in particular.