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Gov Prep Phase 2 of £5bn UK Project Gigabit Broadband Rollout

Thursday, Apr 27th, 2023 (10:22 am) - Score 3,376
Project-Gigabit-Funded-by-UK-Government

Planning is reportedly underway for the next phase of the UK Government’s £5bn rural Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme, which would see more public funding from the existing commitment being set aside to help reach digitally disadvantaged premises (remote and urban) that the initial scheme has so far been unable to tackle.

On the off chance that our readers have forgotten what the programme was setup to do. Project Gigabit aims to help extend ISP networks capable of delivering 1000Mbps download speeds to “at least” 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 and then “nationwide” coverage (c.99%) by around 2030 (here). Commercial deployments are actually expected to tackle the first 80%+ of premises, which leaves this project to focus on the final 20%.

So far only £1.2bn has been released from the budget for all this until around 2024-25, which is funding a mix of schemes, including gigabit vouchers (£210m), an extension of Dark Fibre (GigaHubs) around the public sector (£110m) and gap-funded deployments with suppliers (majority of the funding) – better known as the Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy (GIS) programme.

However, the funding released so far only tackles part of the remaining connectivity gap, and the expectation has long been that the Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency, which oversees Project Gigabit, would ultimately make some changes ahead of the next tranche of funding being released in the future. This is similar to how the original ‘Superfast Broadband‘ (SFBB) programme had three delivery phases with different rules and targets.

What Next for Project Gigabit?

A new report on TelcoTitans states that BDUK has recently been holding internal discussions over a new scheme, tentatively called “The Fund“, which could combine aspects of Project Gigabit’s existing local and regional procurement contracts, and demand-side voucher programme. But exactly how this will work is still the subject of some debate.

However, it should be said that this is just one of several options that may be pursued, and indeed we’ve already seen some indications of the route that BDUK will be taking in the future for other areas. For example, we know that BDUK are currently starting to identify how many premises in urban areas might also need support (here), which is something that could potentially be tackled by expanding the remit of the existing voucher scheme.

Last year we also reported that BDUK were in the process of putting together a new £800m Cross-Regional Single Supplier Framework (aka – Type C), which is intended to target premises that have not been successful in attracting enough interest from suppliers under Project Gigabit’s regular GIS programme (here). A tender to find a supplier for this was published in January (here) and we already know the areas that have so far been shortlisted for it (tentative):

  • North Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire (Lot 30C)
  • West and Mid-Surrey (Lot 22C)
  • Staffordshire (Lot 19C)
  • West Berkshire (Lot 13C)
  • Cornwall & Isles of Scilly (Lot 32C)
  • Hertfordshire (Lot 26C)
  • North West and Mid Wales (Lot 43C)
  • West and North Devon (Lot 6C)

However, the catch with a “single supplier framework” is that there may only be very few operators that could tackle such a large commitment, which would tend to favour the likes of Openreach (BT), and not everybody is happy about that (here). On the other hand, if there are no other viable alternatives left at-scale, then the Type C approach may be the only option left for some areas.

Finally, the government (DSIT) has separately been making some progress on tackling those in the most extremely remote locations (final 0.3% of premises), which are often too expensive for even the main Project Gigabit programme to tackle. For example, there’s BT’s new rural broadband trial with OneWeb’s global network of ultrafast LEO satellites (here), as well as several separate trials with Starlink’s (SpaceX) standalone LEO constellation (here). But the funding for this aspect does NOT come from Project Gigabit as they’re sub-1Gbps solutions, and it is also not being delivered by the BDUK agency.

Suffice to say that the next phase of Project Gigabit will be a bit different from what we’ve seen before, and that’s more or less what we’d expect. An effective programme always needs to evolve and adapt as new challenges emerge, which is something that BDUK has always done.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
7 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Lee Donohue says:

    This is good news as the world we live in is Internet centric just wish they would upgrade to broadband where I live as the 4 mps I get is struggling to keep up with the demands of my house hold.

  2. Avatar photo Chris says:

    I’m in Cornwall. 300 yards from fttc … but can only get ” speed guaranteed ” – 22mb. Soon as 2 or 3 people connect … I’m down to 4-6 mb.

  3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    I very much doubt that DSIT has been making much progress, since the changes that flung them out of BEIS and DCMS have caused organisational chaos for months now, and still continuing.

    To outsiders it’s just a case of “oh, it’s just a new name”, the inside reality is that this is every bit as chaotic and distracting as a major corporate merger or demerger. I speak as somebody not in DSIT, but one of the other areas affected by the same changes, and with decades of private sector experience in organisational restructures to compare with. And this was sprung on the relevant departments with a few hours notice – no planning, no forethought, no consultation.

  4. Avatar photo Sylvia Hill says:

    Some homes in my area have full fibre broadband in BH21 6YY, but my street does not, why not ???.l am with TalkTalk and have asked them to upgrade me, they say they don’t have the facility to do so.

  5. Avatar photo Gary Hilton says:

    OOh phase 2 I’ll hold my breath for some good news….maybe not as our line is a shade over 1M on adsl and has degraded for the last 20 years rather than benefitted from any commercial or funded improvements. Even the Reaching 100% doesn’t include my area so umm well not really R100 is it.

  6. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    Planning how to launder the next $5b into their pockets and those of their friends more like. I wonder how much of the 5 billion actually gets spent on digging holes and putting actual cable to homes?

    1. Avatar photo Wanda says:

      You do realise they’ve only spent £1bn of the five because of how stringent they’ve been?

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