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Digital Wales UK Targets Superfast Broadband for all Businesses by 2016

Posted: 10th Dec, 2010 By: MarkJ
wales uk broadband mapfibre optic cableThe Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has launched a wide ranging new strategy for the region ('Digital Wales') that seeks to bring "super-fast" Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to all businesses by the middle of 2016, with access for households by 2020.

The new strategy comes only days after the UK government revealed its own national strategy ('Britain's Superfast Broadband Future'), which pledged to help most rural areas get "super-fast" access to the internet by 2015. Both plans aim to best Europe's own Digital Agenda, which will bring basic broadband to all Europeans by 2013 and superfast 30Mbps+ services by 2020.

Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said:

"The UK Government’s announcement earlier this week of superfast broadband hubs is a useful step towards fulfilling our own objectives – to ensure Next Generation broadband for all businesses by 2016, with access for households by 2020, ahead of EU targets."

According to WAG, one third of the adult population in Wales does not use the internet and high speed broadband is still not available in many parts of the country. Due to this just 40% of small and medium sized businesses (SME) in the region actually sell on-line.

Ieuan Wyn Jones added:

"We will help more Welsh companies exploit these technologies to innovate, grow and access new markets especially in the creative industries, ICT and tourism sectors.

The application of Information and Communications Technologies drives productivity and competitiveness across the whole of the economy and increased trade and globalisation is enabled by these technologies. In the decade to 2007, the value of ICT in Wales grew as much as 84% - it is now £1.2billion with the potential for as much again."

The Welsh strategy aims to ensure that any next generation broadband infrastructure funded through public sector intervention will be capable of delivering broadband services of at least 30Mbps, and ideally 100Mbps, to "avoid the need for repeat investment" at a later date.

The report estimates that just 35% of Wales will benefit from super-fast broadband solutions through Private Sector investment alone. Naturally the large swathes of rural Wales are unlikely to see faster broadband services without public sector intervention.

In reality the Welsh plan is ultimately just part of the wider UK strategy, as opposed to being an entirely separate imitative, and will need to work closely with the UK governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) department to achieve its goals.

At present the UK government has set aside just £530m (£300m from the BBC TV Licence fee) until 2015 to tackle the problem, which could rise to £830m by 2017 if needed (more BBC money). The plan includes mention of bringing a fibre optic linked 'Digital Hub' to almost every community in the country by 2015. However, many doubt whether £830m will be enough, especially when earlier reports pegged the minimum figure at more like £2bn - £3bn.
The Digital Wales Strategy (PDF)
http://wales.gov.uk/docs/det/publications/101208digitalwalesen.pdf
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