Work begins on first major sub-£5bn broadband upgrade Project Gigabit

  • New data shows super-fast gigabit broadband is now available to 70% of UK homes and businesses
  • The Prime Minister visits Dorset as part of the first Gigabit Project contract awarded, putting over 7,000 hard-to-reach properties on the digital fast lane by 2025
  • Coverage increased by 7% in 2019, which means nearly 20 million premises connected since the Prime Minister took office

The Prime Minister has announced a lightning-fast increase in broadband for homes and businesses in rural Dorset, as new data shows gigabit broadband is now available to 70% of UK homes and businesses.

It comes as work kicks off on the first major contract under the government’s £5billion Gigabit project – the biggest broadband rollout in British history.

New data to be published by independent website ThinkBroadband, shows that 7 out of 10 UK properties can access the fastest and most reliable internet connections that families and businesses need to take full advantage of revolutionary new advances in technology in the decades to come.

This represents a meteoric rise since Prime Minister Boris Johnson took office in 2019, when gigabit coverage was just 7%, showing leveling in action with a total of nearly 20 million premises connected since then. and accelerated industry progress towards the government’s target of 85% coverage by 2025.

In the past five months alone, one million premises have been connected to gigabit networks, a considerable feat considering that the first million premises took more than eight years to connect. The speed at which gigabit-enabled internet connections are installed has tripled, with companies like Wessex Internet connecting premises at the rate of one every seven seconds.

The Prime Minister is in North Dorset today to see plans and preparations to connect more than 7,000 hard-to-reach premises struggling with slow speeds under a £6million deal sterling allocated by the government to Wessex Internet. The first house will be connected by the end of the year, with an expected completion date for all of them by 2025. The project will cover the rural outskirts of towns, villages and hamlets in the region, from Sherborne to Verwood and from Shaftesbury to Blandford Forum.

The signing marks the start of a series of Gigabit Project delivery contracts that will be awarded over the coming months. Under the scheme, the government has already launched contracts totaling over £690million aimed at covering up to 498,000 premises, with work to start connecting hard-to-reach areas in Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria and several northern regions. east of England before the end of the year.

Project Gigabit is the government’s record-breaking £5billion scheme to bring the fastest and most reliable broadband to areas considered too difficult or expensive to connect under the broadband industry’s business plans debit. Government funding will complement industry investments to ensure these harder to reach areas enjoy the same gigabit broadband as the rest of the country, enabling businesses to grow by using digital technology to boost productivity and giving people living in more remote areas better access to good jobs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“From Sherbourne to Stirling, super-fast broadband is leveling cities and towns across the country.

“In just three years, we’ve increased gigabit broadband coverage from 7% of homes to 70%, and I’m proud that today more than 20 million homes, businesses and organizations can access fast and reliable internet, unlocking their potential, creating opportunity and driving growth across the country.

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said:

“Today we are entering an exciting new phase of our £5 billion Project Gigabit digital connectivity program by signing our first major contract in Dorset. Thousands of hard-to-reach homes and businesses across the region will have access to faster connections and join the 20 million properties we’ve helped connect over the past three years.

“The benefits of better broadband connectivity cannot be underestimated and this work will mean that those living in rural areas will be able to enjoy 21st century speeds at home and at work, making their lives easier. and more productive

Gigabit broadband can deliver speeds of over 1,000 megabits per second, more than thirty times faster than ultra-fast copper-based broadband, which is currently available in 97% of UK premises. While superfast is fast enough for most people’s needs today, gigabit-enabled connections will provide the speeds and reliability Britain needs for decades to come.

Entire families will be able to stream movies, TV shows and video games in high quality 4K and 8K to multiple devices at the same time without slowing down the speed. It will underpin revolutionary new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and more internet-connected devices at home and at work to make our lives easier and more productive.

It will enable anyone to start and run a business of any size, even in the most remote parts of the UK.

So far, more than 740,000 premises have been connected through government funding, primarily by expanding the government’s Superfast program to provide gigabit-enabled connections, the Gigabit Broadband voucher program and initiatives to put public services on the digital fast lane by connecting hospitals, medical practices, libraries and other public buildings.

Today’s announcement for Dorset is the first large-scale project under Project Gigabit to deliver gigabit connections to a regional area en masse. Millions of rural homes and businesses across the UK are waiting for an upgrade thanks to dozens of these multi-million pound contracts, making Project Gigabit one of the biggest projects in national infrastructure of recent times.

The announcement follows confirmation last month that hundreds of thousands of pupils living in the countryside will benefit from lessons powered by better digital connections as the government invests to improve internet access for up to 3,000 rural primary schools, with an investment of £82 million to help around half a million primary school children.

Now that the contract in Dorset has been awarded, the government will work with Wessex Internet and the local authority to start planning for the construction of the gigabit-enabled network, with spikes expected to go into the ground in the coming weeks.

Today’s news follows the announcement of plans to connect more than 2,600 hard-to-reach premises in Scotland at gigabit speeds as part of a £36m investment with the Scottish Government . The R100 network expansion includes a £16 million increase in the Gigabit project.

The latest quarterly Project Gigabit update from Building Digital UK (BDUK), an executive agency of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, details progress in rolling out gigabit broadband across the UK. Uni and will be released later this week.

Hector Gibson Fleming, CEO of Wessex Internet, said:

“We are delighted to have won the first contract under the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit programme.

“As a company based in North Dorset, our priority has always been to bring fast and reliable broadband to rural communities overlooked by other providers. We passionately believe that rural areas should have access to gigabit-enabled connectivity and the exciting benefits it brings to homes, businesses and communities.

“Over the past four years, we have connected thousands of homes and businesses across the South West to full fiber optic broadband and we are delighted to further accelerate our rollout with this new contract.”

Cllr Jill Haynes, Dorset Council portfolio holder for business development and transformation, said:

“This significant government investment in Dorset is great news for communities and businesses that would otherwise have been left behind as the country transitions to gigabit-ready broadband.

“A good broadband connection has never been more important as we rebuild the economy after the pandemic.

“We look forward to working with Wessex Internet and the government on this exciting technology development, which will greatly benefit some of the more rural areas of our county.”

Andrew Ferguson, editor of thinkbroadband, said:

“With seven in 10 premises now able to order a gigabit option and more than half of these are in fact future-proof all-fibre equipment, it shows that the UK broadband market is generally meeting its targets. of deployment.

“Of course, at a time when many people are looking to save money on their household bills, buying gigabit service is going to seem like a luxury, but one of the benefits of full fiber is that you can enjoy Improved reliability even when purchasing the entry-level services and even an entry-level Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) product will be faster than an older partial fiber service where speeds are affected by distance up to in the cupboard.


Notes to Editors

  • Project Gigabit’s summer update includes details on the positive impact the government’s broadband voucher program is having on businesses and communities.

  • The government’s current £210m Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) provides a grant of up to £1,500 for residents and up to £3,500 for businesses to help cover the cost of installing high-speed networks gigabit compatible throughput in communities. It allows households and businesses to join together to increase a project’s total grant to cover most or all of the installation costs in eligible areas. To date, more than 110,000 premises can now access a gigabit-compatible broadband connection thanks to this device.

  • The summer update also highlights the results of a recent BDUK survey of over 1,700 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who had received gigabit-capable broadband through government broadband voucher schemes between 2017 and 2021. Over 80% of SMBs surveyed reported increased productivity from their improved connection, with the majority using improved connectivity to access digital tools such as cloud storage, video conferencing, file data transfer high volume and accounting services.

  • Around 40% of businesses also said they were able to reduce business travel and win new customers by going online, and nearly half are adopting more flexible work and business practices.

  • Crucially, 70% of businesses say the upgrade has helped them adapt and continue doing business during the pandemic.


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