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Wales UK Expands Flexibility of Superfast Broadband Voucher Schemes

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 (11:07 am) - Score 981

The Welsh Government has today announced that their two voucher schemes, which are designed to help homes and businesses in disadvantaged areas gain access to faster broadband connectivity, are being expanded to further increase the number of people who can make use of them.

At present the Superfast Cymru project is already working with BT to make “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity available to 96% of Wales by the end of 2016 (benefiting an extra 691,000 premises) and an additional 42,000 homes and businesses will then follow by June 2017 (here). So far 530,000 of these premises have already been covered with the new network.

However the Welsh Government has long since recognised that their project might struggle to reach everybody and so they also have two voucher schemes available.

The Two Existing Broadband Voucher Schemes (Wales)

* Access Broadband Cymru (ABC)

This originally provided grants worth up to £1,000 per property to help people in areas which suffered from “slow broadband connections” (i.e. sub-2Mbps) get a faster connection installed. Unlike BDUK’s Satellite subsidy, the Welsh scheme does not restrict technology choice.

* Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher (UCV)

This provides assistance worth up to £10,000 towards the capital costs of helping firms in Wales to install a broadband service offering speeds of more than 100Mbps (i.e. providing up to 100% of funding on the first £3,000, then 50% between £3,001 and £17,000 and no further funding for costs of £17,001 and above), albeit only applicable to businesses in Enterprise and Local Growth Zones.

Last month it was proposed that both of the above schemes should be extended for two years and expanded in order to help more people and businesses to access better connectivity. In keeping with this there have been a number of changes.

Quick Summary of the Voucher Changes

* ABC will now be available to all homes and businesses across Wales which “currently do not have a superfast connection” (30Mbps+) and this can still be delivered via either satellite, fixed wireless or 4G etc.

* ABC will now offer two levels of funding depending upon the Internet speed required. The first level will offer £400 for download speeds of 10Mbps+ and the second level will offer £800 for 30Mbps+. New connections through this scheme must deliver a step change in speed – with at least double your current download speeds (e.g. a current connection of 10Mbps must improve to at least 20Mbps).

* UCV is being opened up to businesses across Wales to help them meet the initial capital costs involved in installing ultrafast broadband services.

The refined approach is now available and will run until March 2018, when it will need to be reviewed again.

Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, said:

Superfast broadband is vital for homes and businesses, which is why the Welsh Government is committed to bringing faster broadband speeds to communities across Wales.

These two expanded schemes, together with Superfast Cymru, our project to provide wireless broadband to 2000 premises on business parks and industrial estates, and the commercial roll-out by private companies, will make superfast speeds available to all homes and businesses across Wales.

All the measures we are taking are helping to make Wales one of the best connected countries in the world.”

The improvements represent a useful opportunity for Welsh altnets, although Julie James appears to be suggesting that it will “make superfast speeds available to all homes and businesses across Wales“. However the fact that ABC even offers a 10Mbps+ level, as opposed to only focusing on “superfast” speeds, may cast some doubt over that claim. Equally there’s a risk that it may leave some communities with only one option of an inferior Satellite connection.

On the other hand it’s good to see the Ultrafast Connectivity Vouchers (UCV) being extended across Wales as that will open up a lot of new opportunities and may in some cases even help to encourage the spread of superior broadband infrastructure into more remote areas.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. gerarda says:

    Its a pity we haven’t got a scheme like that in England instead of being fobbed off with useless and expensive satellite vouchers

    1. GNewton says:

      Voucher schemes are useless, they don’t stimulate fibre networks build.

    2. FibreFred says:

      That isn’t the aim of the vouchers so I can see why you wrongly think they are useless

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