Insights Government sets out the next steps in its £5 billion gigabit broadband plan

The Government’s £5 billion strategy is to deliver next generation, gigabit-capable broadband to the entire country. Homes and businesses that do not yet have access to superfast broadband will be prioritised.

A consultation has been launched on the draft procurement strategy for the UK Gigabit Programme setting out plans to connect the first one million homes and businesses with gigabit speed broadband and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK by 2025. The consultation is open to network providers and local authorities and runs until 22 January 2021.

The Government says that the accelerated approach to awarding contracts for the £5 billion will mean that every telecoms provider, from the very small to very large, can take part.

Planning for Gigabit Delivery in 2021 includes a series of maps of large and small areas covering the whole of England where Government intervention and subsidy is likely to be required to deliver gigabit-capable networks. It also shows the areas expected to be delivered through normal commercial rollout.

The consultation anticipates up to 26 large regions of England that are most likely to attract commercial investment but require subsidy to reach the hardest 40,000 to 80,000 premises in each area. The Government expects larger broadband suppliers, including challengers to incumbents, to bid for these areas and prioritise people with slow speeds.

In addition there will be smaller contracts to connect around 1,000 to 8,000 premises, to stimulate competition across a wider range of small, medium-sized and rural specialist telecoms providers and help them to scale up.

In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the R100, Project Stratum and Superfast Cymru projects respectively are rolling out large scale superfast contracts which will deliver gigabit connections over the coming years.

DCMS is also exploring how to make available a small number of contracts covering very large areas that are the least commercially attractive to build in.

These new procurements for gigabit infrastructure are set to begin in Spring 2021. The Government will now seek industry and local authority views on the strategy to define small and large procurement boundaries, as well as ensuring that priority areas are served.

The recent Spending Review set out the timeline for how the first tranche of £1.2 billion of funding will be made available to industry over four years. The commitment to spend £5 billion stands, and the Government says that it will accelerate this investment if industry can demonstrate it has the capacity to deliver further and faster. To read the Government’s announcement in full, click here.