Just after securing the subsidised roll-out of gigabit-capable infrastructure to 218,000 rural properties in Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampshire, UK independent full-fibre platform provider CityFibre has been awarded five new contracts under the UK government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme to supply gigabit access to over 202,000 rural properties that would otherwise be excluded from roll-outs by the major service providers.
The Project Gigabit plan is the central plank of the UK government’s ambition for 85% of the UK to have access to gigabit-capable connectivity at the end of 2025 and then full nationwide coverage by 2030.
Complementing roll-out by leading network providers such as Openreach and Virgin Media O2, as well as the alternative supplier sector (altnets), 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 a public consultation, Planning for gigabit delivery in 2021, which sought views on how to make good on a commitment to deliver gigabit broadband in hard-to-reach areas across the UK to ensure such locations benefit from the same access to gigabit broadband as the rest of the country.
CityFibre is already delivering Project Gigabit contracts in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Hampshire. The five new contracts – covering the counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and the town of Milton Keynes – were awarded under a competitive public procurement process and total over £394m of government subsidy. Alongside the latest contracts, this represents over £782m in government subsidies, unlocking almost £1.2bn in combined public and private investment in rural broadband.
With Project Gigabit subsidies targeted at locations not addressed by commercial build plans, CityFibre said it will be the only full-fibre network available to those homes and businesses and to the internet service providers that serve them.
The network provider said it will continue to expand and densify its significant existing network footprint in these areas in line with its corporate strategy alongside Project Gigabit, extending its roll-out to almost 450,000 additional premises across the awarded regions within its eight-million roll-out programme, bringing the total premises benefiting from the new awards to around 651,000. Detailed planning will begin immediately, with the first premises expected to be connected in early 2025.
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CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch 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 roll-out alongside Project Gigabit, extending infrastructure choice, multi-gigabit speeds and unparalleled reliability to hundreds of thousands of additional premises in these regions.”
“Project Gigabit is already driving growth, creating jobs and putting an end to snail’s-pace internet speeds,” added UK data and digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez. “We will continue to work rapidly to ensure people feel the benefits of our roll-out to even more places across the UK as quickly as possible.”