CEO of U.K. passive infrastructure provider warns the country’s competitive position is at risk.

Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO of U.K. passive infrastructure provider Arqiva, on Wednesday repeated his warning that Europe and the U.K. are falling behind when it comes to fibre broadband deployment, and the development of 5G.

Speaking on a panel session at Total Telecom’s Connected Britain event in London, he said the economics of network investment in the U.K. need to be addressed to encourage greater spending on ultrafast infrastructure.

"We need to have a vibrant and globally-competitive digital economy and a cornerstone of that is to have a fit-for-purpose communications infrastructure," he said.

However, the infrastructure the U.K. has today is not fit for purpose, he said, noting that according to OpenSignal, the country ranks 43rd in the world in terms of 4G coverage.

When it comes to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) coverage, the picture is even more gloomy, with FTTP networks passing just 3% of U.K. households by the end of 2016, up from 1% in 2012.

By comparison, FTTP coverage in China went from 28% to 76% over the same time period, while in the U.S. and France, FTTP coverage at the end of last year stood at 24% and 18% respectively.

"We’ve got a long way to go," he said.

When it comes to 5G, the outlook is not good either.

He pointed out that the Conservative Party’s election manifesto said it aims to roll out 5G to the majority of the population by 2027.

"That is not the right aspiration," Beresford-Wylie said, adding that instead the U.K. should aim to be in the first wave of 10-15 countries that launch 5G, such as China and advanced Asian economies.

"In Europe, we’re asleep at the wheel," he warned.

In the U.K., "we need to have 5G…otherwise the competitive position of this country will drift further away."