Quickline Communications

UK government breaks one million mark for gigabit broadband upgrades

Two more Project Gigabit contracts signed to connect a further 32,400 premises in rural UK and further support announced through £70m Future Telecoms programme and Very Hard to Reach Alpha Trials

Less than a month after revealing that gigabit broadband coverage across the UK had increased from just 6% in January 2019 to 80% at the end of 2023, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has revealed that more than a million UK homes, businesses and public buildings can now access gigabit speeds.

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 OpenreachVirgin 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 £5bn 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 government said it would prioritise areas with slow connections that would otherwise be left behind in broadband companies’ plans.

Over £1.1bn has already been signed in Project Gigabit contracts. In addition, more than £77m worth of new contracts have been signed to connect around 32,400 rural premises across Gloucestershire, West Yorkshire and parts of North Yorkshire.

Rural East Yorkshire broadband provider Quickline Communications has been awarded a £60m contract to subsidise the roll-out of a full-fibre network to more than 28,000 hard-to-reach rural homes and businesses across the West Yorkshire and York areas, which the company feels have been left behind by commercial roll-outs. Quickline will make further private investments alongside Project Gigabit to roll out its full-fibre network to an additional 58,000 premises.

In a separate move, the UK’s largest independent full-fibre platform, CityFibre, has just announced that it has begun work to connect almost 45,000 hard-to-reach premises in Cambridgeshire as part of Project Gigabit.

The new DSIT data shows 1,006,800 homes and businesses have now been connected, or can access, a better broadband connection thanks to UK government-funded programmes since the first upgrade was delivered in August 2012 – the equivalent of rolling out to one home, business or public building every six minutes. Most of the premises are in hard-to-reach areas of the UK, including 68,800 in Scotland, 108,800 in Wales and 118,900 in Northern Ireland. Hundreds of thousands more will be connected in the coming months and years via Project Gigabit.

The million premises include 5,300 public buildings, from schools, libraries and hospitals to police stations and council offices. The UK government believes the upgrades help boost productivity in public services and create better experiences for those who use them, while encouraging broadband companies to extend the network to surrounding homes and businesses, thereby improving economic security and opportunities for everyone.

The gigabit broadband announcement came as the government outlined details of UKRI’s £70m Future Telecoms programme, which will see 16 UK projects share £22m to support the development and commercialisation of tech solutions and lay the groundwork for the networks of the future.

In addition, the government announced £40m in funding to provide further support for three existing Future Telecoms Research Hubs – led by Imperial College London, Oxford and Cambridge Universities – alongside the creation of a dedicated national infrastructure for future telecoms testing and development linked to the UK National Dark Fibre to support research in 6G, developing new architectures and networks for end-to-end connectivity, embedding artificial intelligence and computing, and developing wireless access systems such as cell-free networks and optical wireless integration.

The UK government also announced that it is delivering high-speed, reliable connectivity to very hard-to-reach locations using satellite connectivity through the Very Hard to Reach Alpha Trials. These trials are testing the extent to which low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites can be used to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband connections to areas that are typically beyond the building capability of internet service providers.

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