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Wessex Internet Win Rural New Forest Gigabit Broadband Rollout Contract

Tuesday, Apr 11th, 2023 (11:34 am) - Score 1,496
Wessex-Internet-Trenching-Tractor-2022

The seventh contract awarded under the UK’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme – worth “nearly” £14 million – has today been awarded to ISP Wessex Internet, which will upgrade connectivity for “around” 10,500 hard-to-reach homes and businesses across rural parts of the New Forest in Hampshire (England).

The provider already has plenty of experience with rolling out Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure across rural parts of Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Somerset in England, both as part of various commercial and state-aid supported deployment projects. Indeed, they recently secured another Project Gigabit contract for North Dorset (here).

NOTE: Around 75% of UK premises can already access a gigabit network (c. 45%+ via just FTTP).

By comparison, Project Gigabit aims to extend 1Gbps capable (download) networks to reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, before hopefully achieving “nationwide” coverage (c. 99%) by around 2030 (here). Commercial investment is expected to deliver around 80% of this, which leaves the government’s scheme to focus on tackling the final 20% (mostly rural and some sub-urban areas), where the private sector alone often fails. The project is technology neutral, so it can be delivered via either “full fibre” FTTP, Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) or fixed wireless access (e.g. 5G) – but FTTP is favoured.

The project uses a number of different approaches to tackle this challenge (e.g. vouches and investment in dark fibre builds), but the largest part of the scheme involves a gap-funded subsidy approach – the Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy (GIS). This is where smaller local and larger regional contracts are awarded to network operators and ISPs who can help to build their gigabit-capable infrastructure across the final 20%.

The Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency, which manages Project Gigabit, has already awarded a string of initial contracts to various ISPs (see bottom of article for a summary) and the seventh one – New Forest (Lot 27.01) – has today gone to Wessex Internet. The deal is funded by £14m of public investment and aims to cover 10,500 rural homes and businesses.

The new network will be rolled out to communities around the New Forest including Brockenhurst, Burley, Beaulieu, Godshill, Hordle and Sway. The first properties could be “connected to lightning-fast broadband as early asFebruary 2024. Wessex Internet will also work closely with Forestry England and the Verderers of the New Forest throughout this three-year programme of work and expects to start network construction in the first communities by the end of this year.

Digital Infrastructure Minister, Julia Lopez, said:

“Thanks to this latest multi-million pound contract for the New Forest, thousands of hard-to-reach homes and businesses in this stunning area will benefit from a state-of-the-art network ready to provide the speed and reliability we will all need in the decades ahead.

The Prime Minister has put growing the economy as one of his five top priorities, and this investment will go far in delivering on that mission here in the New Forest by equipping rural areas with the infrastructure they need for the digital age.”

Hector Gibson Fleming, CEO at Wessex Internet, said:

“This is great news for homes and businesses in the New Forest who will be able to access world-class connectivity and the many economic and social benefits it provides. We will now work closely with the residents and communities across this beautiful national park to deliver this exciting programme.

We’re delighted to be awarded our second contract under Project Gigabit. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of our team, and their strong track record of rolling out gigabit-capable connectivity to even the hardest to reach countryside communities.”

Prices for their full fibre packages usually start at £29 per month for a 100Mbps (15Mbps upload) tier on a 12-month term, but this only comes with a meagre 100GB data allowance (£44 for unlimited), and you’ll have to pay £49 (one-off) for activation. By comparison, their top unlimited usage package will give you 900Mbps (300Mbps upload) for £84 per month, which is fairly expensive by today’s standards, albeit still a godsend if nobody else can supply FTTP.

Project Gigabit GIS Contract Awards History
Wessex Internet for North Dorset (Lot 14.01) in August 2022 (here)
➤ GoFibre for Teesdale (Lot 4.01) in September 2022 (here)
➤ GoFibre for North Northumberland (Lot 34.01) in October 2022 (here)
Fibrus for Cumbria (Lot 28) in November 2022 (here)
➤ Wildanet for Central Cornwall (Lot 32.03) and South West Cornwall (Lot 32.02) in January 2023 (here)
CityFibre for Cambridgeshire (Lot 5) in March 2023 (here)
➤ Wessex Internet for the New Forest (Lot 27.01) in April 2023 (here)

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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
11 Responses
  1. Avatar photo dave says:

    Is anybody able to share their experience of Wessex Internet?

  2. Avatar photo Fastman says:

    on a scale of 1 – 10 some of those places are in > 9.5 range especially in brockenhurst / new forest area — recognise quite a few of those specific places from personal experience

    1. Avatar photo Fastman says:

      scale of 1- 10 of difficulty

  3. Avatar photo Taras says:

    Looks as if the areas mentioned are areas that OR are not covering. WI is on the higher end of FTTP internet and for many just too expensive.

    Sway and Burley and Brock aren’t in the plans for OR so manybe or decided to cherry pick ahead of this. Burley alone has had fair splattering of FTTP already, some parts where missed – not sure if it was per design or due to the Natural England intervention.

  4. Avatar photo Barney says:

    £59/month for 350/125 fibre… Not cheap!

    1. Avatar photo Taras says:

      Quite! And from my understanding wessex internet doesn’t do wholesale products.

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      Yes no symmetrical upload and download speeds and the 900mbps package is £84 a month I think. I’ve been wondering what justifys their pricing? Do they have a more reliable network? Faster repair times?

    3. Avatar photo Reality Bytes says:

      Build costs will be part of it. Even with the subsidy this is still going to cost them a bomb I imagine.

    4. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Taras: “Quite! And from my understanding wessex internet doesn’t do wholesale products.”

      A remarkable failure of regulation, then. Government policy is to promote competition on an ideological level, and yet it seems public money is being splashed on closed infrastructure, and in a market with no price regulation, exposing captive customers to uncontrolled price increases, whilst under-writing the returns of private equity investors.

      Project Gigabit should always have mandated wholesale access in return for public money, any sane observer had to ask why it did not. The topic will have come up in policy development, and at some point a politician signed this off.

      When it comes to all things public sector, Hanlon’s Razor doesn’t apply very often, but I can offer you Andrew’s Razor, which routinely applies to all matters of government decision making: “Never attribute to incompetence that which can be explained by avarice”.

    5. Avatar photo CJ says:

      Except project gigabit contracts do require wholesale access to be made available for properties where they receive a subsidy. Whether or not wessex internet choose to offer wholesale access to their commercial footprint is irrelevant.

    6. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      A quick search and you’re entirely correct CJ, my comments on regulation of Project Gigabit are entirely unfounded. And a further check shows that Wessex Internet have a page welcoming wholesale access enquiries apparently for their whole network.

      This one’s on you, Taras!

Comments are closed

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