A pilot to test high speed broadband has been launched in six UK regions, the first stage of a £200 million scheme to bring the fastest and most reliable broadband to citizens, business and public sector organisations.
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester will now offer full-fibre network connection at a speed of 1 Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second, enough to download an HD TV programme in five seconds.
The pilots will receive around £10 million to test innovative ways of connecting offices and public sector buildings, among others. The remaining £190 million will be spent by 2021.
The launch follows the government’s call for evidence on extending local fibre networks to which it received 125 submissions from communications providers, local bodies and others.
Full-fibre broadband uses fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology which takes high-speed cables directly to premises. Most fibre services connect to roadside cabinets and then older, slower copper cables provide the ‘last leg’ to buildings. Currently full-fibre networks are only available to about 2% of UK premises.
Traditionally, it has been difficult to secure investment in full fibre due to a relatively young industry and a lack of certainty around future demand. However the pilots are part of the government’s four-year plan to stimulate the 'superfast' broadband market.
For example, in Spring, Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund to raise living standards, of which £740 million is allocated for improving digital infrastructure. This is in addition to the £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund announced in July which has set out to unlock over £1 billion for full fibre broadband, and improve broadband connections nationwide.
“How we live and work today is directly affected by how good our broadband connection is. Reliable connections enable new industries to flourish, help create jobs and give people flexibility in how and where they work,” said the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Jones MP. He said that making such an investment ensures our digital infrastructure is world class and that the economy thrives.
Today the government also published the Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme Impact and Benefits Study which reports on the outcomes of the government’s broadband connection voucher scheme that ran between 2014 and 2016, part of the SuperConnected Cities initiative.