Broadband News

Pilot scheme for business full fibre vouchers launched

The Government has outlined a number of measures and pots of money to help stimulate the technology sector within the UK and a key part of the puzzle is the launch of a Gigabit full fibre voucher scheme for businesses in four areas of the UK.

The voucher scheme follows on from a previous superfast scheme that was widely seen as a success and helped raise the profile of a number of alternate business broadband providers and options. The new scheme has an initial fund of £2 million and will allow businesses to claim up to £3,000 to cover the cost of installing a full fibre connection that is Gigabit capable. The areas in the pilot are:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Bristol and North East Somerset
  • Coventry and Warwickshire
  • West Yorkshire

Our understanding is that while a full fibre connection seems to be a pre-requisite there is no need to actually purchase a Gigabit connection, only that the service should be capable of those speeds. This is important as the reliability of a full fibre connection is often the key driver for a business rather than any need to pull down or push up Gigabit speeds constantly.

CityFibre and its metro fibre network will clearly benefit from the voucher scheme, as the voucher should cover the costs of extending their metro network to a business in a city where they have a presence. The existing Openreach Fibre on Demand (FoD) products even though only available in areas with VDSL2 are also a potential option, and in many cities the cost of Ethernet services which will often have better bandwidth guarantees than a FoD service can be installed with the voucher.

Clearly £2 million split into £3,000 chunks is not going to transform the UK full fibre landscape but as a pilot to make sure that processes for administering the vouchers are working and also to make firms are buying managed hardware at over inflated prices it will demonstrate if there is a demand. Demand is the key, as Government needs to dip a toe in the water and test whether the numerous studies about poor business broadband are indicative that existing roll-outs of services have bypassed business parks and whether there is actually widespread demand for speeds beyond the usual 30 to 50 Mbps.

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