The challenge spending £95m to deliver the biggest full fibre bang
£95 million is large amount of money, but split 13 ways with the intent of delivering full fibre connectivity it suddenly starts to look smaller, but if these first LFFN Challenge projects are a success then just maybe a lot more money may be forthcoming.
The Spring Statement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond was used to reveal that half the Local Full Fibre Challenge Fund (LFFN) has now been allocated and the 13 areas that will share £95 million of funding Westminster are:
- Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon (ABC) £2.4 million
- Highlands £4.5 million
- Cardiff £6 million
- Manchester £23.8 million
- Nynet (North Yorkshire area) £15.1 million
- Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire (CSW) £5.7 million
- Wolverhampton £4.9 million
- London £8.5 million
- Mid Sussex £2.2 million
- Portsmouth £3.9 million
- Cambridgeshire £4.0 million
- Belfast £11.5 million
- Blackpool £3.0 million
The LFFN is a slightly odd beast as its key aim is pushing full fibre, but wireless broadband qualifies so long as it delivers 100 Mbps speeds today and can be expanded in the future to deliver Gigabit speeds. We believe that this avoids lengthy legal challenges under EU State Aid rules and and in 2019 Brexit UK that may not matter anymore, unless State Aid measures are transferred to UK law, we suspect that many would like to ditch them but while lengthy they do help to avoid too many deals with friends.
While the funding amount is know precisely what each project is aiming to deliver varies, and delivery is not expected until the end of the financial year 2020/2021 - April 2021 in normal calendar terms.
Before people get excited and think that this means an area like Portsmouth is going to see some 7,800 households getting access to full fibre broadband, we would urge a read of what the DCMS says about the projects and fund i.e. the aim is to stimulate local markets by helping the public sector upgrade to Gigabit connectivity. Esssentially we can expect councils, schools and hospitals to revamp old copper based networks and also get key businesses onto full fibre networks in the hope that with key anchor customers on board that rolling out en-masse to the full 91,500 premises without the need for £45 million more funding from the public purse. This is a very different approach to the BDUK process and as such is visibly less aimed towards BT and Openreach but other providers who are fighting to get a larger footprint of customers.
ISPA welcomes the announcement of the next stage of the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund, with half of the £190m fund to be allocated to help roll out full-fibre to local areas. ISPA has been working with members and Government to maximise the impact of the fund and we look forward to receiving a further update. We further welcome the £25m allocated for the first six 5G testbeds.
Long term investment in the UK’s telecoms networks, including through the LFFN Challenge Fund, remains a key priority in delivering reliable and leading edge communication services. In addition to targeted support, Government must also continue to reform and remove barriers to broadband rollout to ensure the UK remains well connected and able to compete in a global digital economy.ISPA Chairman, Andrew Glover