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Gov Levelling Up Plan Confirms Nationwide Gigabit Broadband for 2030

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022 (9:31 am) - Score 3,576
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The government will today publish their “flagship” Levelling Up White Paper, which sets out their “plan to transform the UK by spreading opportunity and prosperity to all parts of it” and also confirms their revised broadband target – that “by 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband.”

We first spotted MPs using the 2030 date last November (here), although the language back then wasn’t quite as bold and avoided the use of “nationwide“. Instead, the earlier references spoke of an “ambition of gigabit capabilities across the UK by 2030” or of their aim to “deliver full gigabit-capable coverage to the final 20% by 2030, where it is value for money to do so.”

NOTE: DCMS has already recognised that 0.3% of “Very Hard to Reach” premises (i.e. under 100,000) will be too expensive for even Project Gigabit to tackle, and alternative options are currently being consulted on.

Just to recap. Until November 2021, the £5bn Project Gigabit programme had generally only tended to express its target as seeking to extend such speeds – using a mix of different broadband technologies (FTTP, Hybrid Fibre Coax and Wireless etc.) – to reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, and to then to get “as close to 100% as possible.” The project itself aims to tackle those in the final 20% of hardest to reach (e.g. rural) areas.

The project has generally tended to assume that the first 80% of coverage would be achieved by commercial deployments, which is a fairly safe bet given that Virgin Media’s (VMO2) DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade has already helped to push coverage to c.65% (here) and Openreach’s FTTP rollout alone will to hit c.80% by December 2026 (25 million premises) – this is before we even consider the mass of alternative networks.

Suffice to say that last year’s initially subtle language change reflected the Government’s increasing confidence in both the market’s ability to deliver strong coverage, and their expectations of what Project Gigabit will be able to achieve over a realistic timescale (unlike the original goal of “full fibre for all … by 2025“, which was highly ambitious but not even remotely realistic).

The Levelling Up White Paper

The new Levelling Up programme, which claims to represent a “new way of making and implementing policy“, primarily just seems to re-announce a lot of existing aims and investments (some of these, like the vague 5G mobile target, have existed since 2017). At its heart sits a list of “12 bold, national missions – all quantifiable and to be achieved by 2030” and these “will be given status in law” in their Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“From day one, the defining mission of this government has been to level up this country, to break the link between geography and destiny so that no matter where you live you have access to the same opportunities.

The challenges we face have been embedded over generations and cannot be dug out overnight, but this White Paper is the next crucial step.

It is a vision for the future that will see public spending on R&D increased in every part of the country; transport connectivity improving; faster broadband in every community; life expectancies rising; violent crime falling; schools improving; and private sector investment being unleashed.

It is the most comprehensive, ambitious plan of its kind that this country has ever seen and it will ensure that the government continues to rise to the challenge and deliver for the people of the UK.”

As you might have already guessed from the introduction to this article, the 2030 date for “nationwide gigabit-capable broadband” sits in fourth place on the new missions list. We should point out that the Conservative’s 2017 manifesto actually promised “to have the majority of the population covered by a 5G signal by 2027,” which is thus downgraded to 2030 below (majority could of course equal anything over 50% and is an easy goal).

The 12 Missions to Level Up the UK

1. By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.

2. By 2030, domestic public investment in Research & Development outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40% and at least one third over the Spending Review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth.

3. By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing.

4. By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population.

5. By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third.

6. By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.

7. By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by 5 years.

8. By 2030, well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing.

9. By 2030, pride in place, such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing.

10. By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.

11. By 2030, homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas.

12. By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

The Government says these missions will be underpinned by a “suite of public metrics to track progress and monitor the evolution of spatial disparities“. The government will also legislate such that it has a statutory duty to publish an annual report updating the public on the progress of these missions (we’d rather it was quarterly or biannual), with a new Levelling Up Advisory Council providing “further support and constructive analysis.”

Other parts of the claimed “system change” include: all policy across Whitehall being aligned with the levelling up agenda and therefore subject to spatial analysis, and a transformation of the government’s approach to data and evaluation – with a new independent body created to improve transparency of local government performance.

But back to 1Gbps broadband. Given the situation in “Very Hard to Reach” areas, we suspect that “nationwide” may, at best, translate to slightly below 100% coverage of gigabit-capable broadband networks (e.g. 99.7%), but to be fair that would still be a wonderful achievement – even if true universal coverage (100%) might not be practically achievable.

At present, it’s already taken since 2010 to expand “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) networks to around 97% of premises and that was relatively easy (reusing a lot of existing copper lines and infrastructure), which compares to the huge civil engineering task involved with pushing gigabit broadband to a similar level, and in a similar amount of time.

In short, we think 97-99% by 2030 is a reasonable expectation for gigabit coverage, but much will depend upon the success or failure of Project Gigabit. All of that will be hard to predict until we start to see the first contracts being awarded later this year.

UPDATE 1:52pm

We’ve had a comment from Hyperoptic.

Dana Tobak, CEO of Hyperoptic, said:

“At Hyperoptic we are delighted to see that the LUR Bill confirms the Government’s commitment to nationwide gigabit capable broadband coverage by 2030. As the UK’s largest exclusively full fibre internet service provider, we look forward to playing our part in delivering that ambition.”

On the remark about being the “UK’s largest exclusively full fibre internet service provider,” that is of course debatable, not least since the ISP has not released any solid coverage figures for years and doesn’t define what they mean by “largest” (customers, premises passed etc.). Lest we forget that CityFibre currently appears to have a bigger FTTP-only network than Hyperoptic. Equally, there are some Openreach based ISPs that only sell FTTP products, and they could easily qualify as having larger coverage.

UPDATE 4:18pm

A bunch of new comments have come in.

Greg Mesch, CEO at CityFibre, said:

“We’re delighted to see the role of digital infrastructure positioned so centrally in the Government’s levelling up agenda and we welcome the continued political focus it will benefit from.

Full Fibre is the gold standard technology on which we must all remain focused. Its speed, reliability and ability to be upgraded easily over time is what sets it apart to unleash the highest levels of economic, social and environmental benefits.

Thanks to the emergence of digital infrastructure competition, the industry is making great progress in its rollouts of Full Fibre networks. To maintain or exceed this pace, unlock productivity benefits even faster, and bring down prices for consumers, the Government and Ofcom must continue to protect and nurture a healthy competitive market.

With a £4bn Full Fibre investment programme covering nearly three hundred cities, towns and villages, and with over a million homes already able to access our world-class network, we look forward to playing an increasingly critical role supporting the levelling up mission and the UK’s wider digital transformation.”

Tristia Harrison, CEO of TalkTalk, said:

“We welcome the government’s ambition to bring full fibre to all households across the UK by 2030. As a North West based company we’re passionate about making sure full fibre is available for everyone, regardless of where they live, and we’ll continue to work with the government and all our partners to achieve this.”

Gareth Elliott, Director of Policy and Communications at Mobile UK, said:

“Mobile operators continue to invest heavily in their networks so that they can work towards the Government’s targets; however, a renewed focus from the Government to assist local authorities is essential, which is why Mobile UK is calling for funding for digital champions for councils to help coordinate and prioritise mobile infrastructure deployment.”

UPDATE 5:06pm

Openreach has also responded.

Clive Selley, Openreach CEO, said:

“Better broadband is a massive catalyst for positive change. It boosts productivity, connects forgotten communities, helps people back into work and supports new sustainable business models and public services – so we’re pleased to see it’s a priority for Government.

At Openreach, we’re already investing billions of pounds to build ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre technology to 25 million homes by 2026 – including a big commitment to rural Britain.

We’ve reached more than 6.5 million homes so far but finishing the job, and going even further, will need Government support – for example they can act right now to speed up access to flats, social housing and private land across the country.

Reaching 100 percent of the country will also need more companies to join us and get involved in connecting rural communities with a mixture of satellite, wireless and fixed technologies.”

UPDATE 3rd Feb 2022

A comment has come in from a wireless ISP.

Natalie Duffield, CEO of WeLink Communications UK, said:

“We believe that fixed wireless networks can help Britain hit the target of nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2030 by rapidly extending the reach of fibre into broadband blackspots. Wireless networks can quickly overcome the delays and disruption affecting the deployment of fibre in built-up urban areas, where thousands of households and businesses remain incapable of receiving decent broadband.

Our mmWave wireless network is a greener solution, using above ground, accessible kit that can be constantly upgraded; it transmits a tiny fraction of the power compared to mainstream 5G equipment and will soon be capable of delivering speeds up to 2.5 Gigabits.

Why should communities in left-behind locations have to wait until the next decade to enjoy the full social and economic benefits of the digital world when the technology to bring them lightning-fast connectivity exists here and now?”

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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.
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30 Responses
  1. anonymous says:

    Ignoring the absurd platitudes, so bad even the minister in charge of it thinks it’s absurd, no reason why 99.7% can’t be hit by 2030.

  2. anonymous says:

    Gigabit? Some operators already 2-10GBPS now. Surely post 2025 more would be 10gbps?
    5G – Pretty sure 6G will be in deployment before 2030 too.

    1. anonymous says:

      And Virgin Media will likely have a 2gbps service in next couple of years as DOCSIS 3.1 can handle it, and also the fact that anytime from right now till 2028, they will be changing HFC to full fttp opening up 10gbps more easily and they plan to complete by 2028. Thats why they are doing it so wholesale access is more attractive and viable.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Not a vision it’s simply a Government target carefully worded which will mostly achieved without the politicians actually doing anything.

      Surely all it means is

      “the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband” means there will be fibre infrastructure somewhere in the vicinity but WISP/4G/Sat will do.
      and
      “with 5G coverage for the majority of the population” means the majority of the geographical area of the UK will not be able to move forward with any of the overhyped 5G use case.

      So those in large towns and cities will be experiencing multiple competing full fibre and 5G providers whereas the rest will have a hobson’s choice and limited upload.

    3. anonymous says:

      To deliver a gigabit a network is almost certainly going to be capable of way more. Most people don’t take 500 Mbit/s let alone a gigabit when they can purchase it now. Most people aren’t going to be desperate for >1Gbit/s.

      Meadmodj – Openreach alone are planning 25 million premises by 2026 – 85%-ish coverage.

    4. Meadmodj says:

      Yes certainly OR and Altnets may continue past their current plans however overbuild is set to continue to rise and OR’s current plan statement probably includes all their potential FTTP activity including Commercial, New Build and BDUK and there will be more premises to cover each year if the housing targets are met.

      The costs may continue to reduce, OR may switch to XGSPON by default as well as using it as an overlay, regulation and legal obligations may change.

      This is about HM Government levelling up. On current knowns the £5bn is not enough and the £1.2bn actually committed so far leaves a big hole. This Government wording does not aspire to the capability you describe.

    5. El Guapo says:

      I hate to do a bill gates, but who really needs 2gbit besides some businesses.
      They want people to have fast broadband, so they’re productive, but just like Virgin Media .. the government only cares about the download speed.

    6. Jm says:

      Can your indoor devices wifi tv phone pc even handle 1gb though? Another question

  3. Andy says:

    And here we are in 2022, most of us in rural areas are stuck with crap, surely it would be better to concentrate on these areas first that are very rural and have sub 10mbps and rural towns with sub 50mbps, but no the are still doing major cities, and larger towns that already have 80 – 150mbps, IMO it make zero sense. I also like their get out clause “deliver full gigabit-capable coverage to the final 20% by 2030, where it is value for money to do so.” this bit “…where it is value for money to do so.”, so yet again rural and very rural will be just left with crap, I do not hold any hope that this will improve my area.

    1. WeNeedBetter says:

      @Andy:
      Don’t forget that along with rural area’s there are those area’s on the doorstep of cities that are “not feasible” due to lack of profits” for example there are area’s of Basingstoke that don’t have FTTP purely due to them not being profitable, I’ve seen emails and letters from Maria miller MP stating this.

      It’s all talk and for the most parts area’s like these and the rural areas will always be the last to get this kind of coverage unless someone takes the step and orders FoD from Openreach.

    2. anonymous says:

      Most coverage so far, Andy, has been by private, profit making companies. They exist to make money, not to deliver ultrafast to areas most in need. That’s the remit of non-profits and government schemes.

    3. Mike says:

      Tax and regulation makes it harder to get to those areas.

    4. Nicholas says:

      I disagree: rural areas lack services like Deliveroo and Uber despite paying almost no tax nor being subject to much regulation. As others have said, this is why government is involved at all: because infrastructure in rural areas will be under-provided by the private sector.

    5. El Guapo says:

      > Moves to countryside
      > complains about not having the things people not living in middle of nowhere have.

    6. Mike says:

      @Nicholas

      You might want to go on parliaments website see how many laws the UK has, it’s quite a few.

  4. Fastman says:

    interest grumping about basingstoke which was one of first areas in the country to have a openreach FTTC commercial programme extension following its intial FTTC roll out in basingstoke -now grumping about FTTP – so which area are you actually in — FOD is normally the wrong answer to the wrong question

    1. WeNeedBetter says:

      @fastman

      Sorry I didn’t realise you cant grump about a new thing because the previous thing was rolled out first in Basingstoke.
      Clearly you didn’t read a word I said and just ranted at me.

      FoD may be wrong but that is what we get told to do if we want FTTP in parts of Basingstoke that do not have it, fttp was rolled out as a profit step for businesses, if your house happens to be in that catchment then you get it if not FoD is your only choice.

      If you think it’s wrong email Maria and she’ll happily tell you that’s the option.

      You can’t even get virgin in all parts of Basingstoke so I’m certain this is being repeated in other cities too but I doubt you’re going to accept that with your myopia!

  5. Paul Barrett says:

    So fundamental is fast broadband for the general good of the economy that Govt should impose a public service remit on bband providers.

    By all means give tax relief to those companies provisioning bband to difficult and unprofitable areas.

    Currently inadequate bband has a detrimental effect on property prices.

    So fundamental is fast bband that it should be considered as a standard utility like water which almost everyone has access to.

    Property prices suffer when no decent bband is available.

    Few will choose to move to where bband is inadequate.

    1. anonymous says:

      Yeah, wanting a service obligation due to property prices isn’t going to be especially popular. The taxpayer is already propping up the property market quite enough without bribing companies with tax credit to do so more.

  6. SM says:

    Remind me in 2025, to see if they are still using the same targets or come up with yet another set…

  7. Ad says:

    This will never happen, openreach not capable of getting anywhere near this. Openreach not even capable of providing fibre to cabinets let alone fibre to premises.

    1. anonymous says:

      Could’ve just written that you’re unhappy because you don’t have FTTC.

    2. Fastman says:

      There will be no more fttc

    3. Fastman says:

      Ad so where are you

      There will be no more fttc cab enablements

    4. Ad says:

      Sorry I don’t know who Phil is? So not sure how I’m giving myself away.

      I’m in North Wales.

  8. Truthsayer says:

    Lol hyperoptic is not FTTP only, there are thousands of developments where they installed copper

    1. Jason says:

      Are you referring to the Ethernet extensions they use to get from the basement to the flats?

    2. Truthsayer says:

      I’m talking about the copper cables inside buildings that not only slow down connections but also need active equipment to run

  9. GaryH says:

    So a further 8 years of digital divide until the final 20% are ‘leveled up’, If of course you consider an 8 year head start being a leveled up playing field.

    I don’t dispute the time and cost implications of the remoter rural builds, I do resent the weasel words and spin of the statements made vs the reality.

    1. GaryH says:

      @Damien Aye, I’m lucky enough compared to some that i can get a functional 4G service so for the time being its not so bad, a good 30M+ rather than the 1M Openreach could provide, but potentially 8 years is a long time.

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