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UK Gov Confirm Scotland to Get £450m for Gigabit Broadband Upgrade

Thursday, Dec 14th, 2023 (9:03 am) - Score 3,520
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The UK Government has finally revealed that Scotland’s share of the £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme will be an “estimated” £450m, although market engagement work is ongoing (i.e. getting feedback from suppliers) and has yet to reach the procurement stage – this was originally supposed to happen in the autumn.

At present nearly 74% of premises in Scotland can already access a gigabit-capable (1Gbps download) broadband ISP network (here). But this is expected to increase further as the Scottish Government progresses their existing £600m Reaching 100% (R100) project, which largely involves extending Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) coverage to another 114,000 premises in areas that lack access to “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) speeds by 2027/28. R100 has already covered 42,000 premises (here).

NOTE: In Scotland the responsibility for broadband is reserved to Westminster, but that doesn’t stop local and devolved authorities from making their own investments (e.g. R100). Funding for R100 includes £592.2m of Scottish Government investment, £49.4m of UK Government (BDUK) investment and £54.1m from BT.

Ofcom recently predicted (here) that Scotland’s full fibre coverage would reach around 78-83% by May 2026, while gigabit-capable broadband (FTTP and Hybrid Fibre Coax / cable) would deliver 83-85% by that same date. Suffice to say that in terms of gigabit speeds, a gap will still be left for Scotland to fill once R100 completes.

According to the Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency, some 410,000 premises across Scotland may need support from public funding to help them gain access to a gigabit (1000Mbps) broadband service (here), which could rise if existing plans (inc. commercial builds) fall short. But equally, it may also shrink if those commercial plans are successful.

In any case, until now, we still didn’t know precisely how much funding Scotland would be allocated from Project Gigabit’s budget or whether it would be centrally managed by BDUK like the current procurements. The answer to these questions finally came in yesterday’s parliamentary debate on rural broadband (here).

Sir John Whittingdale, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

“I want to touch on the position in Scotland, to respond to the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) — who I do not think is back with us yet — and put it on the record that, while R100 is administered by the Scottish Government, Project Gigabit, although funded from the UK Government, is delivered through the Scottish Government.

It has taken longer than we would have liked. However, I am in touch with my opposite number in the Scottish Government and can tell the House that, of the £5 billion that the Government are putting into Project Gigabit, an estimated £450 million is to go to the Scottish Government, and we currently have a market engagement exercise under way.”

Separately, the same debate revealed that the UK Gov had asked Ofcom to examine ways to improve estimates around mobile network coverage, which Sir John said “does not match people’s actual experience … We have raised it with Ofcom, and we very much wish to improve the accuracy of the existing statistics.” But there are practical and technical limitations that make accurately and cost effectively mapping real-world mobile coverage extremely challenging (you’d need a veritable army of on the ground testers to do it properly, scientifically).

The divisive issue of “telegraph poles” for full fibre delivery also came up in the debate. Sir John said: “I understand the frustration of people who may have existing broadband suppliers but then see another competitor wishing to install telegraph poles. We are talking to Ofcom and local authorities about that.” But solving this without disrupting existing rollouts will be extremely difficult, and the government were unable to improve related infrastructure sharing via the ATI Regulations when they tried in 2021 (here).

The rural broadband debate also touched on many of the usual talking points, such as the lack of effectiveness and awareness around the 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (the USO is due for review). The debate also touched on social tariffs, which seemed to indicate that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were looking to actively promote them to those on benefits.

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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
5 Responses
  1. Avatar photo MilesT says:

    What strikes me is infrastructure investment costs funded by government

    Modest broadband improvement: £450m
    New train station (Brent Cross West) in London enabling 6000 dwellings: best part of £419m (the precise figure is unreported, but it is more than the original £97m offered, complex build and allargeish station but still feels expensive).

    And of course HS2…

    1. Avatar photo Sam says:

      “Brent Cross West” is literally sandwiched 1km next to Brent Cross station, 1km next to Cricklewood station and 1km from Hendon station

  2. Avatar photo Garyh says:

    Nice to see some solid information on the share of funding, the cynic in me isnt holding much hope that its going tobimprove things for those of us on the worst connections.
    Genuinely rural, sparse areas i feel are highly likely to be written off again further widening the gap.

    1. Avatar photo MikeW says:

      The UK has made good progress on improving access to faster internet speeds (/quality), just because your particular area is ignored is hardly a concern for broader society (/nationally)

      I assume you live rurally but if you live in England you should be glad that we already have procurements to cover a large area and of course I wish the best to Wales, Scotland and NI and hope work starts sooner than later. Hardly a cause for pessimism within the decade or at least within the next half decade.

    2. Avatar photo GaryH says:

      @MikeW I think you’re missing my point, Also don’t tell me what I should be. I’ll be glad or otherwise as i choose. You appear to echo the Governments position and my stated feeling when you say small areas or distributed homes aren’t of concern nationally. for the broader society.

      ‘My Area has not been ignored, the local town has fibre and before that had great fttc coverage, however neither spread outside the town itself leaving large parts of ‘My Area’ with patchy cellular and very poor adsl lines, they’re rural but very much non dense as is a great part of Scotland up here thousands of farms, houses and former crofts that very much will be ignored as they’re at the wrong end of ‘value for money, People outside of towns and villages Do have cause to be pessimistic about improvement.

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