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CityFibre Win Five Big UK Project Gigabit Broadband Contracts

Tuesday, Feb 6th, 2024 (7:21 am) - Score 7,560
CityFibre Trenching Engineers 2022

CityFibre has today secured another five of the UK government’s Project Gigabit broadband rollout contracts, totalling over £394m. The deals will spread their full fibre (FTTP) ISP network to over 202,000 hard to reach premises across parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes.

Project Gigabit aims to extend 1Gbps (download) capable 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 more than 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, but Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) networks are strongly favoured.

NOTE: 80% of UK premises can already access gigabit speeds (up from over 72% at the end of 2022), which drops to 60% when only looking at full fibre (up from 45%) – detail.

The project uses a number of different methods 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 or 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 the programme, has already awarded a string of initial rollout contracts to various operators – across various different parts of the UK. CityFibre has previously won four of those (here and here) – covering rural parts of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Hampshire and Suffolk (262,000 subsidised premises), which reflects a combined public investment of £387m. This is being supported by an additional private investment from CityFibre of £223m to help reach even more premises in those same regions (taking the total to 715,000 premises).

The Five New Contracts

By comparison, the five new contracts being announced this morning total over £394m of government subsidy to cover 202,000 subsidised premises. In line with its strategy, CityFibre will continue to expand and densify its existing network footprint in these areas alongside Project Gigabit, extending its rollout to almost 450,000 additional premises across the awarded regions within its commercial rollout programme, bringing the total premises benefiting from today’s new awards to around 651,000. Detailed planning will begin immediately, with the first premises expected to be connected in “early 2025“.

Lot Location Subsidised Premises Subsidy Value
26 Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire & East Berkshire 34,000 £58m
11 Leicestershire & Warwickshire 38,000 £71m
16 & 1 West & East Sussex 52,000 £100m
29 Kent 50,000 £112m
12 Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes 25,000 £51m

Alongside the previous contracts, this represents a total of over £782m in government subsidies for CityFibre and is said to unlock almost £1.2bn in combined public and private investment in rural broadband (total of 1.366 million premises). Suffice to say, CityFibre are now a major player in the Project Gigabit programme, which helps to explain all of the recent turmoil with their builds in order areas (here) – they have to refocus a lot of resources toward Project Gigabit.

Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said:

“We’re thrilled to be a key delivery partner for the government on this critical infrastructure project, transforming the digital capabilities of rural homes and businesses across the country. But that’s just the start. We’re continuing to expand our commercial rollout alongside Project Gigabit, extending infrastructure choice, multi-gigabit speeds, and unparalleled reliability to hundreds of thousands of additional premises in these regions.”

Julia Lopez, Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister, said:

“We’re wasting no time in our mission to bring lightning-fast broadband to rural areas – with a billion pounds in contracts already signed with broadband companies to get our next-generation network up and running.

Project Gigabit is already driving growth, creating jobs and putting an end to snail’s pace internet speeds, and we will continue to work rapidly to ensure people feel the benefits of our rollout to even more places across the UK as quickly as possible.”

The new contracts will naturally support CityFibre’s wider ambition of covering up to 8 million UK premises (funded by c.£2.4bn in equity, c.£4.9bn debt and c.£800m of BDUK subsidy) – across over 285 cities, towns and villages (c.30% of the UK) – by the end of 2025 (here). The operator’s FTTP network currently covers 3.5 million UK premises (3.2m as Ready for Service), with packages available via various ISPs (e.g. TalkTalk, Vodafone, Zen Internet etc.).

Just to recap, here’s the list of the other Project Gigabit contracts that CityFibre have previously won.

Lot Location Subsidised Premises Subsidy Value
5 Cambridgeshire 45,000 £69m
2 Suffolk 80,000 £100m
7 Norfolk 62,000 £114m
27 Hampshire 76,000 £104m

We’ve also pasted a general summary of previous Project Gigabit contract awards below, which covers all operators.

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)
➤ Freedom Fibre for North Shropshire (Lot 25.02) in May 2023 (here)
➤ CityFibre for Norfolk (Lot 7), Suffolk (Lot 2) and Hampshire (Lot 27) in July 2023 (here)
Gigaclear for South Oxfordshire (Lot 13.01) and North Oxfordshire (Lot 13.02) in Nov 2023 (here)
➤ Connect Fibre for North East Staffordshire (Lot 19.01) in Nov 2023 (here)
➤ Connect Fibre for Derbyshire (Lot 3) in Dec 2023 (here)
➤ CityFibre for Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire & East Berkshire (Lot 26), Leicestershire & Warwickshire (Lot 11), West & East Sussex (Lot 16 & 1), Kent (Lot 29) and Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes (Lot 12) in Feb 2024

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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
55 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Danny says:

    Anybody know why Openreach aren’t winning any of these contracts? Is it because they won all the FTTC ones?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’d be watching the Type C contracts to see if they scoop up any of those. BT / Openreach won’t bid for something if it doesn’t make enough economic sense in order to beat a rival bid.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Seeing as their commercial build and take up rate is going just dandy at the minute I’m sure they won’t be too worried about allowing their rivals to feast on the scraps. As Mark says they’ll only do it when it makes economic sense. As long as they get a big take up in the towns and cities they won’t be too worried about what goes on in the sticks and leave it to the likes of Gigaclear who target rural builds.

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @Big Dave, going dandy er? From what I have read or heard, Openrerach has missed out on a fair few customers due to alt networks.
      May not be huge, but as they say, every little helps.

    4. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      @Ad47uk

      A 34% take up rate is pretty fantastic considering they are building to 3.7 million p.a. Yes they are losing some customers to the altnets but they’ve always accepted they won’t be as dominant as they have been.

    5. Avatar photo Jim says:

      I wonder how many bids they actually receive for these contracts? Looking at that list there aren’t that many companies who’d be interested in most areas

      Suspect these are being let based on a single bid for each lot

  2. Avatar photo TC says:

    @Mark Jackson Any news on the West and South Yorkshire contracts?
    It seems to have gone very quiet on those awards…

    1. Avatar photo I love Starlink says:

      It’s odd right? They can 3 of our major towns but get 5 new contracts. it’s like they don’t want to finish and only go where the money is.. Until they get bored with that too!

    2. Avatar photo Sam says:

      Wish they they finish/restart some of their other projects like Bath.
      So annoying they they now more new new contract, wonder whether will they will go the same way as many of their stopped/abandon contracts…

    3. Avatar photo TM says:

      I Love Cityfibre

  3. Avatar photo Lobbyist says:

    That worked out very nicely, Lobbyist for CityFibre becomes BDUK chairman, CityFibre win £750M in contracts £££££££

    https://democracyforsale.substack.com/p/tory-donor-fujitsu-post-office-horizon-contracts

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Would you prefer the money to go to a network builder only building GPON?

      What about a smaller altnet that was almost certainly going to fall by the wayside in the impending consolidation (under the City Fibre flag)?

      Sometimes the least worst option is in fact the right decision.

    2. Avatar photo Lewis says:

      Shocking.
      Will anything be done about it? I doubt it.

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Openreach can easily use optics capable of XGSPON: both their Adtran and Nokia kit being installed is combo capable.

      That they either only have the GPON active or are using GPON optics isn’t really an issue. Given the current products available most of the folks in these areas aren’t going to get too irate over not having symmetrical multigig available straight away.

    4. Avatar photo Matt says:

      I’m not sure what the story is realistically.

      Like OFCOM having previous BT execs involved? or OFWAT having previous water company execs involved? – Both not great – I understand that, BUT:

      BDUK *should* be giving money to Cityfibre, as the largest altnet they *should* be winning these contracts. Realistically, not going for them initially was likely a mistake which they’ve now corrected. (I’m pretty sure they adjusted focus when the interest rate spiked, as

      CEO and Chairman together is clutching at straws… CEO and CEO of another ISP together and all of a sudden theres merger or aquisition talks. (Or, realistically they’re there to discuss access, temporary alignment to argue with another provider / the asa)

    5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      @XGS

      I think for most customers GPON is going to be more than adequate for the next 5-10 years and given that Openreach has an good take up rate it may make more sense for them to complete it’s build in GPON and then skip a generation and jump directly to 40 or 100 gigabit.

    6. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      Out of curiosity, anyone know what the planned contention ratio is on CityFibre XGS-PON? I believe the contention ratio on Openreach GPON is 1:32.

    7. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I believe most XGS-PON altnets are using 1:64

  4. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    So am I right in thinking that when copper is switched off openreach will be missing from huge swathes of the UK? I’m in Suffolk and other than in the bigger towns they have minimal coverage, and what they do have presumably will be extremely expensive to maintain because it’s often very small numbers of properties dotted about in the countryside (where copper didn’t satisfy the USO).

    1. Avatar photo Andrew Ferguson says:

      What copper switch off? Vdsl2 is not leaving yet sogea and sotap

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Copper-based broadband services, via SOGEA, SOGFAST and SOTAP, will generally be maintained in areas where FTTP has yet to be made available.

    3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      On the basis there are about 32 million properties in the UK OR are committed to building to 25 million by the end of 2026 and intend to carry on building to 2030 I don’t think they will be missing large parts of the country. I don’t think it would make much sense of them to overbuild very rural places where there is already another network (B4RN springs to mind) and in extreme cases Starlink will need to step in.

    4. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      There is no Openreach copper switchoff, except in areas with >75% Openreach FTTP coverage, and even then it only applies to those properties where OR FTTP has been made available to order.

      Otherwise, the copper network remains, and will do for many years.

      You may be getting confused with the switchoff of the PSTN (analogue telephone service), which happens in December 2025. Once that happens, people who want phone service will be changed to digital voice, but that can still be on top of copper broadband.

    5. Avatar photo Peach says:

      Will be interesting to see what happens as a lot rural locations use DNO poles or have large sections of DIG, not sure how much PIA will be viable. Would OR potentially abandon any ducts or poles if they lose out in these areas

  5. Avatar photo Jim Gayes says:

    CityFibre seem to do very well at winning contracts and starting infrastructure builds, but their performance on completing them is less than stellar, pausing several around the country.
    We are Chester based, they started installation work probably 2 years ago with Telent, parted ways with them after a while. Resumed with another contractor from Leeds I think (can’t remember the name) who then went bust.
    There is alot of unconnected fibre around the town. They could do with spending more effort on getting the existing fibre connected instead of winning new contracts. The fibre has been installed down my street nearly 12 months ago and my money is waiting to sign up for a fast symmetrical connection.

    1. Avatar photo Bobh says:

      Completely correct. I’m still waiting for the rest of our estate to be completed. They should be made to complete their existing areas before getting further contracts, it’s ridiculous

    2. Avatar photo Allen Bass says:

      That’s about right for cityfibre, start builds then abandon them. The build in my area stopped about 9 months ago not seen anything of them since, and getting information from the is about impossible.

  6. Avatar photo Marcel Thompson says:

    Can definitely attest to Cityfibre being active in my area of Warwickshire Nuneaton, the big 3 have all started doing work at the same time, first it was Virgin Media installing additional smaller fibre cabinets next to existing ones, then a few weeks later Openreach installing fibre on our telephone pole with me being able to order fibre in March from the website and now I’m seeing Cityfibre vans dotting about most days around my area with work seemingly starting soonish, like a mad rush.

    1. Avatar photo Martin says:

      What area of Nuneaton if you dont mind me asking? I am in Bermuda and sadly nothing seen here at the moment. Desperate to get away from 60mb onto 1gb speeds…

  7. Avatar photo I love Starlink says:

    Such a shame they can’t be bothered to finish places they have started.. Will these 5 suddenly stop in a year time when 1/4 of the area is done?

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I think they only get BDUK money on completion of build.

  8. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    Are there any public coverage maps for the areas to be built? Are there any timelines for when they need to be built by?

    Are there any clawback clauses if take-up is above a threshold?

    Is there anything that stops them building to the easiest ones, collecting the cash, and then abandoning the more difficult ones?

    1. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

      There are maps but they are low-res with coverage indicated using fuzzy blobs (E.G. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/project-gigabit-network-build-contract-nottinghamshire-and-west-lincolnshire). Pretty much useless in fact, if you want to understand if your property will be included.

      There are no updates for the new Cityfibre contracts as yet, but the maps, if there are any will be more of the same.

      Regardless, Cityfibre now have a huge chunk of rural procurements with 9 large contracts.

      Mark may well be right and this explains one reason why CityFibre seem to be juggling resources. However, it remains to be seen how quick, and how comprehensive, building will prove to be across their estate.

      Notification of regional procurement progress, as with other regional procurements, seems to be left largely in the hands of the builder(s) which, so far, seems to be happening only when a build is imminent.

      It may well be that some people will still have a long, information-free wait for FTTP, if they get it at all.

  9. Avatar photo george says:

    it would be nice if they finished what they started,still waiting in Plymouth for them to get to my area ,have now heard they have paused the build in quite a few areas ,why is it because they are not getting Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy to build in urban areas but rely on private equity money.

  10. Avatar photo GG says:

    Nice. Over 2 grand of taxpayers money per place to subsidise people who paid far less for their properties than the people in towns funding these schemes.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      The same people whose lands those power lines cross to get to your towns and cities, whom don’t get paid for that pleasure and see their own property values impacted by it.

      Isn’t life fun when you live it through blinkers?

    2. Avatar photo Ben says:

      > see their own property values impacted by it

      Not sure what you’re saying here — most folks would’ve bought their homes _after_ electricity became mainstream, so they would’ve bought at a discount due to the infrastructure.

  11. Avatar photo ISP User says:

    Certainly better public money spent than on OneWeb’s £400m up in smoke vs £400m which will actually benefit UK tax payer’s broadband in rural areas.

    Just to put this in perspective the US introduced $42.5 billion in goverment infrasturcture funding (Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program).

    France – National Broadband Plan (France Très Haut Débit) €20billion spent as of 2020

    Boris’s govenment pledged a lesser £5b back when he was in an election with Corbyn. Interesing to know how much of this has been spent or awarded after this award. c£900m to CityFibre + other Altnets = £1.5b?

    The story is why is the UK government not supporting the commercial investment like other countries in a timely manner?

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Can’t really compare the UK to the USA: it’s huge and costs to deploy fibre are astronomical.

      https://mikeconlow.substack.com/p/yes-there-really-is-enough-money

      The French National Broadband Plan includes private sector spending and subsidies end up as less than 20% of the total: the UK plan has a larger budget as far as public sector subsidies go. It was intended to bring >30 Mbps originally, equivalent to the original BDUK schemes.

      A case could be made that these subsidies are unnecessary or are premature given Openreach will overbuild most of it and Nexfibre some of it. As with BDUK it’s bringing forward build in most cases and properties that would have been served in time are going to be served earlier.

      I’m lukewarm on it at best: I’m not a fan of these builds going inside out and would prefer as much as possible to be covered commercially: when Openreach overbuild some of these folks are boned and will struggle even with the subsidies.

    2. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

      @XGS This is one of the downsides of regional procurements; they just take too long and reality is tending to make them less attractive (from an effective use of public funds perspective) as time passes.

      Openreach are building commercially at the rate of over 70,000 premises passed per week, right now, and without having to faff with the regional procurement bidding process.

      It would be surprising if Openreach (and may be other AltNets) didn’t want to build to at least some of the towns and large villages currently included in regional contracts.

      However, It’s not clear (to me at any rate) if Openreach (or others) do declare a build within a live procurement, how the OMR process would be applied, if at all. I can’t imagine a regional procurement builder would be too happy to lose a chunk of intervention area mid-build. Even if they retain the subsidy (at unnecessary taxpayer cost), as @XGS points out, the overbuild itself may upset the projected economics of a regional build, perhaps substantially.

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Indeed, Peter. A nationwide procurement similar to that seen in a few other places would’ve been better if we must do this.

      The way to go years ago would’ve been to incentivise Openreach to build point to point fibre then sell it to others to both allow them to have very high take up and those others to innovate in how they light the fibre pair (has to be at least a pair to each property).

      Now, this seems like the wrong time. Even with this making up the difference for these providers between their commercial costs and the gap to the actual costs Openreach turning up and selling for the same price as in a major urban area through cross-subsidy will break them.

      When your incumbent is on record informing they’re going to over 80% coverage by 2026 and near-100% by 2030 gap funding doesn’t seem smart: not a lot of time for the providers being funded to build their networks and make money before the BT Group bus is parked on their front garden.

      Added bonus Liberty Global will be rocking up to some of these areas as they’re on the way to other places. They’ve form now for building out to villages they’re running backbone through and why wouldn’t you? Villages are an excellent place to build once the fibre is built to them. If you’re running a 288 fibre cable through one it’d be crazy not to take a few fibres off and build a street-side OLT on the way through.

  12. Avatar photo ADSL Enjoyer says:

    Interesting that CF are taking on more BDUK contracts when, as far as I can tell, they’ve yet to give updates on their other contracts. For Cambridgeshire in particular, scoping/surveying was supposed to be finished in autumn last year, but no news has been forthcoming. Of course, they’ve been given five years to do it so perhaps they’re in no hurry.

  13. Avatar photo Bathuser says:

    Finish the ones you started first!

  14. Avatar photo CGG says:

    The lack of evidence that anything has happened in Cambridge, Norfolk & Suffolk leads me to question the time scale for all of this. CF have taken on an enormous work load.

    1. Avatar photo Dan day says:

      Cityfibre is available in most of Ipswich I think

    2. Avatar photo CGG says:

      I don’t think Ipswich was part of the Project Gigabit.

  15. Avatar photo Sam says:

    I’m in Bosworth, and I’m sure Market Bosworth and surrounding villages off Market Bosworth exchange will get the upgrade, but as I’m on Twycross Exchange, off Tamworth, I can guarantee I’ll be missed off!

  16. Avatar photo Adrian Morris says:

    Re West Sussex, does anyone know how to get a more detailed map than the one on Gov.uk so I can see whether my postcode is covered by the new City Fibre contract? Or the underlying postcode list data?
    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/project-gigabit-network-build-contract-east-and-west-sussex
    Thanks.

    1. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

      The useless fuzzy-blobby maps are pretty much it.

      BDUK were supposedly creating a user friendly website that the public could consult but, for the moment at least, we are stuck with a collection of documents on gov.uk.

      The problem is that content of these documents is not standard and not all are published for every procurement it seems.

      What does seem to be a common theme is that the data underlying the maps isn’t widely published. Usually, there is a comment about the list being ‘published in due course’ or something similar. As far as I am aware, none have as yet for any procurement but would be happy to be proved wrong.

      At one point, you could consult the outcome postcode lists of the Open Market Reviews, but the last time these were made public was in May last year so are now well out of date. The lists describe what proportion of each postcode may be eligible for subsidy rather than at the individual property level. Some published procurement docs may provide a postcode list that is essentially postcodes from the OMR list that just relate to a specific procurement.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/project-gigabit-national-rolling-open-market-review-september-2023/outcome/closure-of-the-september-2023-national-rolling-open-market-review

      You could try asking BDUK for a list for your procurement via email (there’s an address in the doc reference above), but unless you are a supplier you might be out of luck.

      You might be on the VPA list if an AltNet has an existing project in your area. If you are then voucher funding may be available.

      https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/

      or

      https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/voucher-priority-areas-in-regional-supplier-contracts/

  17. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Tentatively this is good news for me in Bucks, most villages locally have Gigaclear which seems to have frequent outages, at least we’ll have a choice of ISP. However we’re quite an island of non-fibre coverage and not near any existing CF areas so I can’t imagine they’ll be in a rush to get to us!

  18. Avatar photo Anon123 says:

    Hi – does anyone know if an updated postcode list is available they will be covered by this contracts? For Sussex, the numbers covered has dropped from 62k to 52k and looking at the latest map, the urban I live in is no longer covered, despite no commercial plans for it to be covered either ( Trooli and Openreach have covered what they can but lack of existing infrastructure and costs means they are not intending to cover large parts of Seaford).

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