Project Gigabit – summer updateGulistan Ladha
The government has published a summer update on the Project Gigabit Delivery plan and procurement pipeline. It reveals that up to 1,850,000 additional premises across 26 counties in England will get access to gigabit-capable broadband. This brings the current total number of premises in scope for government-funded coverage to 2.2 million, with more still to be announced over the coming months across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The government expresses confidence in exceeding the gigabit coverage target (85% of UK premises) by 2025.
Since March 2021 commercial investment has grown and providers have committed to boosting commercial gigabit coverage by more than 5 million additional homes and businesses. Procurement activities are underway – the Dynamic Purchasing System launched in May this year for the Local Supplier procurements. BDUK is working on the larger Regional Supplier procurements; the first are to engage with the market and other interested parties and a formal Public Review process. In the scheme’s first year, UK Gigabit Voucher projects are expected to result in additional coverage for around 75,000 premises, attracting about £75 million of UK Government funding and around £26 million of local and devolved government funding. BDUK will shortly be publishing its first findings of the Local Full Fibre Networks programme which began in March 2018.
A number of telecoms infrastructure providers have announced plans, including:
- CityFibre aims to deliver 8-10 million homes and businesses.
- Openreach has increased its target gigabit coverage from 20 million UK premises to 25 million by the end of 2026, including 3 million premises in predominantly rural areas. Openreach announced in late May 2021 that it will be increasing its deployment rate from 43,000 homes and businesses every week to 75,000 a week.
- Virgin Media reiterated its previous commitment to covering 7-10 million premises with a potential investment in digital infrastructure of around £10 billion in total.
Up to £90 million additional funding is being allocated to extend contracts awarded under the previous Superfast Broadband programme, which are already delivering gigabit access to some of the hardest to reach premises that cannot currently get superfast speeds (30Mbps). Contracts in the devolved nations and specific pockets within England are being targeted. Following the £4.5 million boost for Scotland’s R100 Central contract to extend gigabit coverage to an additional 5,000 premises, the government is exploring the opportunity to deliver further gigabit coverage through the R100 Northern contract. DCMS is exploring further opportunities for gigabit-capable solutions through Northern Ireland’s Project Stratum and through Superfast Wales. There remains a small number of contracts within England with the potential for extension, however these are more likely to be superseded by Project Gigabit Regional or Local Supplier procurements.