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Gov’s £1bn Helps 493,600 UK Premises Get Gigabit Broadband

Saturday, August 8th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 3,588
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The UK Government has today announced that nearly half a million premises have been connected to gigabit-capable broadband since summer 2018, which stems from £1bn of public investment. But in order to push take-up they’re now launching a new Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG).

At present almost 26% of UK homes and businesses can now access a “gigabit” (1000Mbps+ or 1Gbps+) service via an ISP which, alongside commercial investment, means more than 7.5 million premises have been covered (up from just 1.4 million two years ago). We should point out that “full fibre” (FTTP) networks only cover about 15% of premises (here) and lately much of the gigabit increase has come from Virgin Media’s DOCSIS3.1 upgrade (here).

NOTE: Alternative network ISPs (e.g. CommunityFibre, Cityfibre, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear etc.) are also having a big impact on UK gigabit coverage (here and here).

As for the Government, they’ve so far focused on targeted support to help facilitate investment by commercial operators and to connect public sector sites. In total they’ve committed around £1bn across various schemes including £400m via the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund (DIIF), £279m through the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) scheme and £200m under the Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme.

Both the LFFN and RGC programmes have also included gigabit voucher schemes, which provide grants to help homes and businesses get a faster broadband connection installed. At present the RGC is focused on rural communities and provides funding of up to £3,500 for small rural businesses, or up to £1,500 for homes, which in some areas can also be doubled in value by extra investment from local authorities.

So far, a total of 44,792 vouchers, worth more than £90 million, have been issued to help subsidise the cost of building such networks and 29,142 of those have resulted in a live connection (some of the related builds are on-going and take time to complete). The remaining RGC voucher scheme is due to finish at the end of March 2021, while some of the other aforementioned schemes will conclude by the end of 2021.

On top of that at least £200m from Building Digital UK’s (DCMS) existing Superfast Broadband Programme has also been transitioned to specify gigabit-capable (mostly FTTP) connections for all remaining procurements / change requests, which has been on-going for awhile now. Crucially, this accounts for the lion’s share of that half a million figure (464,458 premises).

Matt Warman, UK Digital Infrastructure Minister, said:

“It’s fantastic to see so many people getting access to gigabit speed broadband. This is thanks to our investment alongside the sterling work of industry.

Today I urge people in rural communities in the digital slow lane to apply for the immediate financial help available so they can seize the benefits of better connectivity – from making work easier to catching up with family and friends.

I am also launching a new drive with business and consumer champions to make more people aware of just how beneficial better, faster broadband can be.”

People in rural communities who want to benefit from the rural gigabit vouchers (£70m is still available) can do so here – https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk, although some areas may also be able to help pilot BDUK’s new consumer led approach to vouchers (here).

The government notes that only 30% of premises in areas with access to gigabit-broadband have actually adopted the service and they’re keen to see that improve. As a result, they’ve established the new Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG), which will “lead a strategic review into boosting take-up as gigabit connections among consumers and businesses become more widely available.”

Apparently GigaTAG will be led by paid consumer magazine Which?, as well as business groups including the FSB and CBI, with membership including Ofcom and other “industry representatives” (none are named). We’ll certainly be interested to see if they can come up with any new ideas, beyond those that are already being used or planned for the near future (e.g. migration improvements and price discounts).

Rocio Concha, Director of Advocacy at Which?, said:

“It’s really important that people across the UK, including those who are vulnerable or in hard to reach locations, have a quality broadband connection that meets their needs not just for entertainment and to stay in touch with loved ones, but also to be able to work, shop and bank.

By bringing together industry, the regulator, government as well as groups representing both consumers and businesses, this new advisory group will be able to provide recommendations on the best way to ensure everyone can take advantage of faster, more reliable internet connections as they are rolled out.”

A number of factors can impact take-up, such as the higher prices for gigabit-capable services, as well as customers being locked into long contracts with their existing ISP (they can’t upgrade immediately) and a lack of general awareness (locals don’t always know that the faster service exists) or interest in the new connectivity (if you have a decent ADSL2+ speed and only basic needs then you might feel less inclined to upgrade).

The fear of switching to a different ISP may also obstruct some services and so can long contract terms with existing packages. One other way that operators, particularly Virgin Media and Openreach (BT), could help is by making it easier for sites like ISPreview.co.uk to access their network coverage data so that we can build our own multi-network coverage checkers. On this point an agreed industry standard would be most welcome.

Otherwise it’s worth noting that next year will see the Government’s new £5bn investment programme begin (summary), which holds an ambition to extend gigabit connectivity to every UK home by the end of 2025 (although it’ll probably take a little longer than that to actually achieve).

Leave a Comment
33 Responses
  1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    If we had a higher percentage of FTTP in place then I could understand the proposal for a Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group however not now. It may be focused on FTTP areas but the communication will be across the UK.

    A lot of the current FTTP is first generation GPON
    OR still needs copper revenue to support their Fibre First investment.
    VM are introducing 3.1 but if everyone takes 1 gig could they cope (I doubt customers would not differentiate between FTTP anf HFC) and in turn this could impact FTTP take up.
    Currently a lot of rural/community FTTP backhaul may have been based on Ultrafast not Giga assumptions and will require upgrades.

    My view is that until we have a high level of urban competition and rural coverage of FTTP we need to keep the current momentum of FTTP investment going and not divert investment funds, available or encourage customers to pay for capacity they are unlikely to utilise.

    The focus should be getting FTTP out there to provide effective sppeds, reliability and consistency and Giga for the small percentage that currently need it.

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      divert investment funds, available resource

  2. Avatar James says:

    So if I have this right this took £2000 per property which were probably the easiest to do, compared with £833 per property for the final 6m hardest to reach. Not sure the maths adds up there!

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Oh great 500,000 homes can get gigabit broadband connected that they can’t afford!

    2. Avatar CarlT says:

      Economies of scale. A single voucher used to build GPON to one property could easily provide the network for 8 properties. One-offs are expensive. When it’s the same amount of work to pass 4 or 8 premises it’s quite different.

  3. Avatar Gary says:

    If there’s 70Millon still available , I’ll take 38k of it. Infact make it 45 and my three neighbours can get connected too.

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      This is a government vanity project, nothing more. Its done to make us think they’re actually good at the things they do and progressing an agenda. In reality its just a way of making themselves look constructive when they are anything but that.

  4. Avatar SimonM says:

    I’m in a rural area, so could I just apply via one of the listed ISPs on https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/#suppliers and they’ve got to give me a quote to get Ultrafast installed? 10 of the (fairly long) list of suppliers that it lists when entering my postcode have a green “Active in this area”, so I presume one of those 10? The ‘active in this area’ being not this area as such, but “that these suppliers have provided connections in your local authority area as part of the scheme”, which makes me think they’ve done so in some more rural (eg: really very rural and isolated, ADSL speed areas?) or in more financially attractive areas (eg: somewhere that probably could be commercially viable, but they’ve just not started yet). Where I am, there is FTTC 80/20 which was enabled in the local area as part of a BDUK scheme about six years ago.

    Or do I have to ask neighbours from various surrounding roads if they’d also like Ultrafast, and apply as a community with only one voucher to be split between all of the “community” of houses that want Ultrafast?

    I’m a bit confused. And that’s why I’ve not signed up for the voucher scheme during all this time that it has been available.

  5. Avatar Mark Bonito says:

    Hi Mark,

    Interesting read, as usual.

    I found a similar article on the BBC but not sure the facts are correct. The gigabit voucher scheme ended in May 2020, due to expiry of funds, as detailed in your article here https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/05/governments-uk-gigabit-broadband-voucher-scheme-ends-today.html .

    I know there is a Rural Gigabit Connectivity scheme which was launched as detailed in this article https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/01/government-changes-uk-gigabit-broadband-voucher-rules.html but having tried to access, can confirm that you have to apply for multiple lines as part of a scheme, ie you cannot apply for a single line for home or business. I have had this verified by email from s***.b****@dcms.gov.uk at the DCMS office advising this is for “Schemes” only not individuals.

    There is also a new £20 million of grants available as detailed here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/20-million-in-new-grants-to-boost-recovery-of-small-businesses but have a request to the gov.uk by email (with a 14 day response expected) if this can be used for gigabit broadband.

    If I am in error please do let me know.

  6. Avatar Gary says:

    Does this new think tank really deserve the funding, Mark cover the fairly obvious reasons in one news piece right here,

    Most people don’t have a need for faster, most don’t want to or cant pay more, some are tied into contracts even if they do now have FTTP available and as as been said before many many times, if you roll out FTTP to the dense areas that have good FTTC then the incentive to go for it is lower than in areas with poor connectivity where people would view the increased cost somewhat differently.

    But hey lets spend tax revenue on GigaTAG

    1. Avatar SimonM says:

      “Most people don’t have a need for faster, most don’t want to or cant pay more, some are tied into contracts even if they do now have FTTP available”

      I do need (want) faster than my 80/20 (76/18-ish), especially upload.

      I do expect I’d have to pay more than I currently am, and I’m ok with that.

      I’m not tied in to a contract, I’m ready to go today. In fact the only reason I’ve not changed provider to chase a different deal and start a new contract is because I don’t want to get stuck in a contract when a faster package option becomes available.

      I can’t wait for Gigabit capable FTTP to be available. But even with this scheme talked about with money being available through vouchers for installing such connectivity, and being in a rural area, I’ve got no idea if, or how, I actually get that FTTP connectivity. It seems it’s only for people in areas where FTTP is actively being implemented, not people who would like to be outside of the current commercial rollout? or does it include everyone anywhere rural?

    2. Avatar Andrew Ferguson says:

      In theory covers both scenarios

      e.g. provider has come to area commercially and voucher can be used to offset a high activation, or provider has quoted you an excess cost to deal with a long drive or other quirk of your property.

      the other being they have not passed you commercially, but are in an area and can then quote. Of course in this scenario likely further funding needed unless your cluster of vouchers adds up.

    3. Avatar occasionally factual says:

      Gary,
      it really is down to pricing and ISP support.
      I’m in one of the original BT FTTP Trial areas and take up has been very slow. Most people have only moved from 3Mb ADSL in the past 2 years. Given the trial started in 2010 and was commercially available in 2014/5, take up has been low historically.
      Why?
      1. Most people are in contract with one of the big ISPs and never look beyond that. They may use a price comparison site every now and then but Openreach FTTP is usually missing from them. So the big ISPs must sell Openreach FTTP so that the vast majority of people will even know about it.
      2. If they do look, they see the price and tend not to go any further.
      3. When only BT sold it, there wasn’t any mass marketing locally of even an 80/40 FTTP service. I don’t know why that was the case. So most people didn’t know it was possible to get.
      So we need to see the big boys using Openreach and prices to come down to FTTC levels to see increased take up.

    4. Avatar Gary says:

      I’m the same Simon. I do want faster and i can afford it, However its not available , without a massive FTTPod bill, that i’m not willing to pay.

      But we’re not ‘most people’

      occasionally factual, your post highlights one of the odd things about all this, Prices.

      So what are we saying here, people would have it if the price was lower even if they dont really have a need for it, That goes for almost everything in life, But it isn’t real demand, it’s just ‘oh might as well it’s the same price” Naturally there are those for who the current price point isn’t affordable or justifiable

      Sure if openreach and ISPs actually want people to migrate then decreasing price and marketing should do that, But for all the ISPs it’ll come down to the margin on the product. Why bother pushing FTTP when theres no financial gain to it.

      Advertising, I really cant get my head round to be honest, If ISP ‘A’ starts providing FTTP thats got to be one of the easiest targeted marketing scenarios going, Email/Mail/phone your customers and offer it, For Openreach it’s a bit hard to promote to end users after doing an area as theyre basically saying hey contact your provider who may or may not do it.

      Theres also, ‘Most people’ already have Fibre Broadband and according to the ASA that doesnt cause any issues when they think they have Fibre anyway why pay more for ‘Fibre’

      The price will come down, its usually early adopters that pay the most

    5. Avatar P.r.concannon says:

      The biggest problem is the price been charged to connect to 1 gig. I’ve just upgraded to 500 Meg and its costing £100 a month. Unless they permanently drop the prices they won’t get many takers especially since a lot of people are not in work because of covid and are unlikely to be able to go back to work as their companies have gone bust

    6. Avatar CarlT says:

      If you aren’t in work you don’t take gigabit Internet service – there are better things to spend limited funds on.

      That’s a high price for 500 Mb. Niche provider price rather than mainstream.

  7. Avatar Gary says:

    What a wonky statement by Rocio Concha

    “It’s really important that people across the UK, including those who are vulnerable or in hard to reach locations, have a quality broadband connection that meets their needs”

    this new advisory group will be able to provide recommendations on the best way to ensure everyone can take advantage of faster, more reliable internet connections as they are rolled out.”

    Here’s the problem in hard to reach areas, You plan to advise us how to sign up ‘WHEN’ they are rolled out, Theyre not being rolled out to those people at scale. If the services were there to order, We dont need the Government to do that peoples ISPs should be doing that.

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      I can’t be the only one with questions surrounding this supposed “advisory group”. Who in the government have a financial interest in what these guys are pushing I wonder?

  8. Avatar The Facts says:

    ‘customers being locked into long contracts with their existing ISP (they can’t upgrade immediately)’

    Aren’t ISPs happy to upgrade customers who sign up for another period?

    1. Avatar SimonM says:

      I think the ISPs should all be forced to detail that as part of the up-front sales message. Can you break your contract to regrade to a higher package with them without penalty, or are you tied to the full contract term.

    2. Avatar Andrew Ferguson says:

      If upgrading package within the same ISP usually no problem.

      But if 3 months into 18 month contract with provider A and provider C appears with a FTTP option, then no legal requirement on provider A to let you go, and putting that into consumer law would have side effects

    3. Avatar James ™ says:

      Most allow you to upgrade, but if you are with a provider who doesn’t offer faster your stuck until your contract ends.

    4. Avatar SimonM says:

      But don’t you think it’d be fair, and something maybe Ofcom should enforce, that ISPs must make this obvious pre-signup as to if you can regrade mid-contract to a higher package. Because whilst some are fine with it, that suggests some aren’t. And that’s pretty rough for those stuck on a bad package that can’t regrade because of some internal policy that prevents it.

    5. Avatar Orbit says:

      I’ve never known a company to not let you upgrade a contract midway, as they make more money and get to reset your contract term. They’re talking about not being able to switch between ISP’s as you’re locked in contractually (unless you buy your way out).

  9. Avatar Werner E says:

    I made the phone call to apply. OpenReach completed their investigation to get my property connected. It is actually going to cost ME between £40000 and £50000. I can only guess that is going to be the case for most rural homes, so I can’t see their generous offer of £1500 being taken up by many.

    1. Avatar Orbit says:

      I was quoted 10k to flip a EOL line to FTTC so those numbers look about right. It’s always good to see government investment but I don’t think they fully grasp the reality of the problem for the ‘non-commercially viable’ of us. £1500 – wow thanks, I’ll just sell my kidney for the rest!

  10. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Another case of government misdirection then?

  11. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    At this point, wouldn’t the entirety of the governments broadband investment be put to better use all going into 5g?

    1. Avatar Orbit says:

      Probably – I think 5G might be the best some of us can hope for now. I wish they hadn’t bothered spending money producing the USO rules though. That ‘think tank’ managed to take years and god-knows-how much tax money to come up with ‘you can ask for better broadband but BTW you have to spend 10k-50k to get it’ – good job guys, the UK’s digital future is safe now (facepalm).

    2. Avatar 125us says:

      No. The capacity of a radio access network is finite.

    3. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      125us. I don’t believe the finite nature of the radio spectrum is an issue with 5g. Its more the amount of back-haul to and from the masts that currently provides the biggest complication.

    4. Avatar EndlessWaves says:

      5G is reportedly hitting just 100-150Mbps real world speeds for the early adopters.

      Filter that through all the speed drops caused by increased use and the rollout challenges in difficult areas and you’re likely looking at 60-80Mbps or less.

      It would have to be very cheap and very quick to deploy to make it a worthwhile stopgap. Given that we still have plenty of masts that are 3G but not 4G that seems unlikely unless something about 5G is different.

      FTTP does appear to be the only realistic possibility to deliver reasonable connections to notspots, instead of the speeds good broadband areas had a decade ago.

  12. Avatar NGA for all says:

    DCMS/BDUK could re-issue celebrating passing 97% superfast UK coverage or 90% of rural 6m, while highlighting the financial capacity to reach 99%+

    Greater London will be the one with the biggest gaps in service when all the 2011-12 funds are reconciled and re-cycled.

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