The UK government’s rollout of next-generation broadband is steaming ahead with around £1.1 billion in contracts now signed to connect 677,000 rural homes and businesses across England.
Project Gigabit is a flagship programme to connect hard-to-reach areas which, without government intervention, would miss out on the industry’s rollout of faster, more reliable ‘gigabit-capable’ broadband.
Six new contracts worth more than £450 million have been announced today (6th February 2024), allowing suppliers to immediately begin detailed surveying work to connect around 236,000 premises across England, with the first premises expected to be connected in early 2025.
Five of these latest contracts will be delivered by broadband provider CityFibre, serving rural communities in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes. A further contract to upgrade premises in Nottinghamshire and West Lincolnshire has been awarded to Hull-based supplier Connexin.
Full fibre is capable of delivering speeds of up to 1,000 megabits (or one gigabit) per second – up to 30 times faster than superfast connections which rely on traditional copper cables. The upgrades will help grow the economy, create jobs and deliver long-term change for a brighter future by making it easier to set up a business, and giving rural communities access to networks designed to meet people’s needs for decades to come as the demand for fast connections continue to rise. Gigabit speeds mean households can download a high-definition film in under one minute, stream and download entertainment and shop online across several different devices at once.
Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:
We’re wasting no time in our mission to bring lightning-fast broadband to rural areas – with a billion pounds in contracts already signed with broadband companies to get our next-generation network up and running.
Project Gigabit is already driving growth, creating jobs and putting an end to snail’s pace internet speeds, and we will continue to work rapidly to ensure people feel the benefits of our rollout to even more places across the UK as quickly as possible.
Greg Mesch, Chief Executive Officer at CityFibre, said:
We’re thrilled to be a key delivery partner for the government on this critical infrastructure project, transforming the digital capabilities of rural homes and businesses across the country. But that’s just the start. We’re continuing to expand our commercial rollout alongside Project Gigabit, extending infrastructure choice, multi-gigabit speeds, and unparalleled reliability to hundreds of thousands of additional premises in these regions.
Furqan Alamgir, CEO at Connexin said:
Through the award of this contract, we are delighted to be able to play our part in the UK government’s mission to level up and bring gigabit connectivity to our rural communities.
At Connexin our mission is not just about connecting people but also about how such connectivity can improve lives. We believe that everyone has the right to the same opportunities, and we firmly believe in digital inclusion and what it can unlock.
We look forward to working with BDUK to future proof the infrastructure and bring hyperfast broadband to the region.
As a result of this investment, CityFibre has committed to offer 40 apprenticeships – a minimum of eight per year – across the UK in telecoms and highways maintenance for the duration of the contract, giving young people the chance to develop vital new skills and build a rewarding career. It comes as the country marks National Apprenticeship Week, a government-led campaign celebrating the impact apprentices make to communities, businesses, and the wider economy.
Connexin has also committed support to community initiatives such as volunteering charitable hours and will provide career mentoring and apprenticeship programmes to a diverse range of candidates in these local communities.
The UK is building gigabit networks faster than any country in the EU, thanks in part to government measures to stimulate competition and bust barriers to rollout. Last month the government announced that gigabit coverage had reached 80 per cent of the UK, up from just 6 per cent in 2019, and the UK is on track to achieve 85 per cent by 2025.
Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.