The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called on the government to do more to prioritise the rollouts of full fibre and 5G technology amid warnings that these areas will slip under the radar in an environment focused on Brexit.
In its latest Ready, Set, Connect report, the industry group warned that this year could see a loss of focus on the rollout of new connectivity as attentions are turned towards Europe.
The organisation said Brexit is "sucking the oxygen out of priorities like this at home". Therefore, it highlighted several key steps the government should be taking to prevent this and give homes and businesses the connectivity they need to ensure the UK remains productive.
Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the CBI, said: "There’s is a real risk that 2019 will be a year in which we overlook the rest of our economy.
"There’s already a digital divide in rural areas across the UK. Our ability to enjoy world-class digital connectivity shouldn’t be determined by where we live or work. It’s not just a social case for national coverage, but a clear economic one."
Among the CBI's recommendations were for the government to fast-track new laws to make it easier for firms to install internet connections in existing homes for private tenants, as well as ensuring all new properties have full fibre or other gigabit cables installed during their construction.
"Why aren’t we equipping every new build in the UK with full fibre technology to enable more flexible working?" Mr Fell said. "In this case, it’s not just investing that matters. It’s also about the challenges companies face getting access to properties when looking to install digital connections in private rentals."
The CBI also called for all new transport projects, such as new train lines, to have full fibre cables installed along their route to help bring high-speed connectivity to more parts of the UK.
Adopting new trials that will demonstrate to firms the applications and benefits of 5G were also suggested by the organisation as a key step in ensuring the UK's connectivity in 2019 and beyond.