Four-fifths of UK gains access to gigabit broadband

Drive by leading commercial players and Project Gigabit programme sees milestone for gigabit broadband in UK including access for almost a million premises in so-called hard-to-reach places

In a clear demonstration of just how rapidly the UK’s fixed broadband market is developing, data from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has revealed that gigabit coverage across the UK has increased rapidly in recent years, from just 6% in January 2019 to now eight in 10.

The UK government has been working with broadband suppliers to achieve at least 85% gigabit coverage of the UK by 2025, and then nationwide coverage by 2030.

In addition to fast development by leading network providers such as Openreach, Virgin Media O2 and CityFibre, the UK’s gigabit sector has been boosted by the alternative supplier sector (altnets) and the UK government itself through its Project Gigabit programme.

Project Gigabit was introduced in 2021 to accelerate the UK’s recovery from Covid-19, fire up high-growth sectors such as tech and the creative industries, and level up the country, spreading wealth and creating jobs across Britain.

On its launch, the UK government said it would prioritise areas that currently have slow connections and would otherwise be left behind in broadband companies’ plans.

The delivery plan for Project Gigabit is a response by the UK government to its public consultation, Planning for gigabit delivery in 2021, which sought views on how to spend its £5bn funding commitment for gigabit broadband in hard-to-reach areas, complementing industry investment to ensure such areas benefit from the same gigabit broadband as the rest of the country.

As it announced the figures, DSIT noted better connectivity will boost productivity for businesses, unlocking digital opportunities across the UK, and attributed the latest growth to what it calls “the hard work of the telecoms industry and UK government action”.

There is now a market of over 100 providers investing more than £40bn to roll out gigabit-capable broadband across the UK, and in 2023, the UK government committed more than half a billion pounds to boost broadband to more than 330,000 hard-to-reach homes and businesses.

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The government’s most recent progress update, published in December 2023, showed that more than 929,000 hard-to-reach premises have already got access to fast and reliable gigabit broadband as a result of government support.

“This is another giant leap forward in our mission to bring gigabit connectivity to every part of the UK, with 80% of the country now able to benefit from lightning-fast broadband,” said UK technology secretary Michelle Donelan.

“Access to gigabit speeds does not just mean being able to seamlessly stream films and TV shows, and shop online all at once. It means better productivity for businesses and new opportunities for local communities with digital infrastructure which will help power our economy, create jobs and improve lives for decades to come.”

The DSIT research was based on data from that stressed that despite the country as a whole hitting 80%, some areas were still lagging far behind that figure. In particular, it highlighted the lack of gigabit in areas such as Rhondda (15.1% of premises); North Norfolk (17%); Southport (20.4%); South Dorset (34.9%); Aberdeenshire (34.9%); Cumberland (36.4%); Ludlow (36.6%); Dumfries and Galloway (37.7%); Torridge & West Devon (44.3%); Nottinghamshire (54.4%); West Lancashire (55.3%); and Cornwall (56.8%).

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