£5 billion for Gigabit broadband confirmed in budget
The aim of Gigabit capable broadband to be available to all premises across the United Kingdom by the end of 2025 was a key part of the Conservative manifesto in December 2019 and in the first Budget since winning the General Election the expected £5 billion has been confirmed as in the spending budget.
At this time beyond the short mention of £5 billion for Gigabit capable broadband ensuring it will be available in the hardest to reach places nothing else significant was mentioned. How this will be spent has been thrust into the hands of the Culture Secretary and DCMS.
Some were hoping for a specific mention of changes to business rates which are levied on fibre deployments, but no mention was made beyond a business wide review of business rates later in 2020.
1.134 Investment in broadband has had signi cant bene ts to the UK economy.35 Forty times faster than standard superfast broadband, gigabit broadband provides a step change in the UK’s digital connectivity. The government is committing £5 billion to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband in the most difficult to reach 20% of the country, so that all areas are able to bene t. This investment will level up connectivity across the UK, particularly in rural areas.
1.135 As part of over £1 billion that the government has already committed to next generation digital infrastructure, the Budget announces the next seven areas that have successfully bid for funding from the third wave of the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund: North of Tyne (£12 million), South Wales (£12 million), Tay Cities (£6.7 million), Pembrokeshire (£4 million), Plymouth (£3 million), Essex and Hertfordshire (£2.1 million) and East Riding of Yorkshire (£1 million).
1.136 In too many places, phone reception is not good enough and people lack choice of mobile provider. The Budget announces that the Shared Rural Network agreement has been finalised between the government and industry. The government will commit up to £510 million of funding, which will be more than matched by industry. This means 95% of the UK’s landmass will have high quality 4G mobile coverage by 2025.
2.79 New build homes’ connectivity – The Budget announces that DCMS will shortly publish a consultation response which will con rm the government’s intention to legislate to ensure that new build homes are built with gigabit-capable broadband. 2.80 Existing broadband programmes – As part of over £1 billion that the government has already committed to next-generation digital infrastructure, the Budget announces:
- the next seven areas that have successfully bid for funding from the third wave of the Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund: North of Tyne (£12 million), South Wales (£12 million), Tay Cities (£6.7 million), Pembrokeshire (£4 million), Plymouth (£3 million), Essex and Hertfordshire (£2.1 million) and East Riding of Yorkshire (£1 million)
- that the government’s existing superfast broadband programme has shifted its focus to delivering gigabit-capable broadband and has already delivered full bre to over 370,000 premises
- that more than 100 schools in rural areas are due to receive full fibre broadband in the next twelve months under the Rural Gigabit Connectivity programmeExtracts from Budget 2020 paperwork
It is important to highlight that the £5 billion for Gigabit services is not exclusively limited to rural areas, which will please those in urban areas who have seen existing roll-outs pass them by.
The seven areas for LFFN spending might eventually encourage more commercial investment in FTTP to residential areas, but the main beneficiary of LFFN is local authorities updating old digital services contracts.
The wait is now to see what DCMS do with the £5 billion, given the long lead times that will result from any procurement programme looking to spend £5 billion we suspect that to get things moving that voucher schemes may remain the preferred solution until whatever contracts get added under the Gigabit Broadband UK programme.
Update 3pm: We have had some half a dozen comments in our inbox from broadband providers, and several have made the mistake of suggesting the 2025 target is all about full fibre. Full fibre while Gigabit capable is one of three main technologies that tick the Gigabit capable box. As we highlighted last week DOCSIS 3.1 cable broadband is going to be a massive component in the 100% Gigabit capable target, in fact more than half the target. There is also the possibility that mmWave 5G (higher frequencies than deployed current in the UK) may help some urban areas reach the target too. Now back to finding more full fibre and network expansion by the various operators.