Department for Science, Innovation & Technology
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One million premises upgraded to gigabit broadband by government

The government is rolling out gigabit networks faster than any other country in the EU.

  • Government has delivered faster, more reliable connectivity to an average of one building every six minutes since project began, as one million properties connected
  • majority are in hard-to-reach locations, where previously many people would have struggled to stream TV shows or run small businesses
  • comes as two more Project Gigabit contracts signed to connect around 32,400 premises in Gloucestershire and Yorkshire
  • further support announced through £70 million Future Telecoms Programme and Very Hard to Reach Alpha Trials to boost satellite connectivity

More than one million homes, businesses and public buildings can now access the best internet speeds on the market as a result of the UK government’s rollout of faster, more reliable broadband – showing our plan to connect hard-to-reach communities is working.

For over a decade the UK government has been investing in the construction of ‘gigabit-capable’ networks in areas that are too difficult or expensive for broadband suppliers to reach as part of their commercial plans.

This long-term decision has helped to grow the rural economy, create jobs, and ensure those in rural and remote communities across the country can reap the rewards of lightning-fast connectivity, from hamlets surrounding Land’s End in Cornwall to a Royal Air Force radar station in the northern isles of Shetland.

New data shows 1,006,800 homes and businesses have been connected, or are able to access, a better broadband connection thanks to UK government-funded programmes since the first upgrade was delivered in August 2012 – the equivalent of rolling out to one home, business or public building every six minutes.

The majority of these premises are in hard-to-reach rural locations, where residents and businesses previously would have struggled to perform basic online tasks that others take for granted such as shopping or banking online, participating in a work video call, streaming a high-definition film or online learning.

Thanks to upgrades delivered under government-backed broadband rollout programmes, these premises can now access more reliable services than traditional copper-based networks. Gigabit speeds mean households can download a high-definition film in under one minute, shop online across several different devices at once and utilise high definition video calls, such as with a GP, allowing for better healthcare.

The million premises includes 5,300 public buildings - including schools, libraries, hospitals, police stations, council offices and more. The upgrades have helped boost productivity in public services and create better experiences for those who use them, while encouraging broadband companies to extend the network to surrounding homes and businesses - improving economic security and opportunity for everyone.

Businesses – which have already increased turnover by £2.6 billion in areas targeted by our Superfast programme - will particularly benefit from gigabit capable technologies, with greater speed and reliability allowing them to bring in more orders and complete more work remotely anywhere in the UK, in turn boosting growth across our country.

The UK government’s rollout is continuing to gather pace, with more than £77 million worth of Project Gigabit contracts signed today to connect around 32,400 rural premises across Gloucestershire, West and parts of North Yorkshire. Project Gigabit is a record £5 billion programme to ensure hard-to-reach areas are not left behind in the national upgrade to gigabit broadband.

This forms part of the UK building gigabit networks faster than any country in the EU, thanks in part to government measures to stimulate competition and bust barriers to rollout.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

Achieving a million gigabit-ready premises shows our plan to turbocharge British broadband is working. Thanks to our investment, rural communities held back by achingly slow internet can now tap into the best speeds on the market.

The UK is rolling out gigabit networks faster than any country in the EU, with 8 in 10 premises now able to access upgrades. It is a track record that shows we are rapidly building the infrastructure Britain needs to improve lives and grow the economy.

To mark the milestone, Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan is visiting the rural town of Wooler in Northumberland on Thursday (22 February) to see the impact of the government’s rollout. She will meet one entrepreneur who launched a successful hotel business as a result of the upgrades, as well as firms and employees who say the broadband boost has helped improve their productivity.

Most of the 1 million premises are spread across hard-to-reach areas of the UK, including 68,800 in Scotland, 108,800 in Wales and 118,900 in Northern Ireland. Hundreds of thousands more will be connected in the coming months and years via Project Gigabit. Over £1.1 billion has already been signed in Project Gigabit contracts to connect more than 700,000 premises in England, from Northumberland, Durham and Cumbria to Cornwall, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Clive Selley, Openreach CEO said: 

We’re proud at Openreach to be leading the UK’s digital transformation – investing £15 billion to build a new ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband network throughout the country.

In recent years, the UK’s telecoms sector has been supported by policies and regulation - including the super deduction - which encouraged this massive investment, and we’re on track to reach more than 25 million homes and businesses by the end of 2026, including millions in rural communities.

Our network, in-turn, will support future growth and prosperity for everyone so we hope this supportive environment will continue and we’re working with partners across the industry to get the job done.

Now, around 80 per cent of the UK is covered by gigabit broadband, up from just 6 per cent in 2019, and the UK is on track to achieve 85 per cent by 2025. Having the fastest connections also means the UK is fit-for-the-future, with broadband infrastructure designed to deliver for people’s needs for decades to come.

Carolyn Dawson, CEO, Founders Forum Group, said:

For founders, entrepreneurs and businesses, a reliable, high-speed internet connection can provide the rocket fuel that their ambitions need, supporting their day-to-day work and helping them to grow, so we have been delighted to see the success of Project Gigabit to date.

When Founders Forum Group became the custodian of the much-loved Tech Nation brand last year, we inherited its remit to champion startups from all corners of the UK, and investments like this support the growth of innovative and exciting businesses in locations across country.

For those building a business in Inverness or Eastbourne, the rapid rollout of these high-speed internet connections should be welcomed.

Alex Veitch, Director of Policy and Insights at the British Chambers of Commerce said: 

It’s hugely welcome that more businesses across the UK now have access to gigabit broadband. Fast and reliable connectivity is fundamental to helping firms grow and thrive in a modern economy.”  

It’s vital that the rollout continues apace so many more firms in rural parts of the country can also reap the benefits of this important project. In the coming months, we will also be setting out our ambitions for bringing down existing barriers to broadband coverage, recognising the important role it plays for businesses.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, said:

This announcement underscores the crucial role that high-quality communications infrastructure plays in driving the UK’s economy, connecting society, and fostering prosperity.

techUK is particularly pleased to see the continued investment in the innovative telecoms technology of tomorrow. These advancements are pivotal in shaping the future landscape of innovation, powering a plethora of emerging technologies, ranging from quantum computing to AI, automation, and edge computing.

Today’s announcement comes as the government outlines details of UKRI’s £70 million Future Telecoms Programme, funded through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund and supporting one of five critical technologies, which will see 16 UK projects share £22 million to support development and commercialisation of cutting-edge tech solutions and lay the groundwork for the networks of the future.

Meanwhile £40 million will provide further support for three existing Future Telecoms Research Hubs - led by Imperial College London, Oxford, and Cambridge Universities - alongside the creation of a dedicated national infrastructure for future telecoms testing and development linked to the UK National Dark Fibre Facility - to support research in 6G, developing new architectures and networks for end-to-end connectivity, embedding AI and computing and developing wireless access systems such as cell-free networks and optical wireless integration.

Dr Kedar Pandya, UKRI Technology Missions Fund Senior Responsible Owner, said:

The investment announced today will play an important role in advancing the telecoms technologies of tomorrow, supporting both early-stage research and market-ready solutions.

It underlines the role the Technology Missions Fund and UKRI support plays in unlocking the potential of new technologies that will have a profound impact on society and the economy.

The UK is also delivering high-speed, reliable connectivity to some of our very hardest to reach locations using satellite connectivity through the ‘Very Hard to Reach Alpha Trials’. These trials are testing the extent to which low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites can be used to deliver high-speed low latency broadband connections to areas which are typically beyond the building capability of internet service providers. This includes transforming connectivity for some of the country’s most important wildlife havens and sites of historical importance within protected landscapes.

Further Information

Premises are classified as passed by gigabit-capable broadband if it is possible to access a gigabit-capable service for the standard price and be connected in the standard timescale.

All premise count figures are rounded to the nearest 100, meaning they may not sum due to rounding.

The total number of premises connected have been funded via a range of active and legacy programmes, including the Superfast Programme, Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy (Project Gigabit contracts) and Gigahubs.

There are already alpha trials live in a number of areas including the Shetland Islands, Eryri National Park, and North Yorkshire, and today, the government unveils five additional trial sites in Scotland, Northumberland, and Norfolk. These will transform connectivity for some of the country’s most important wildlife havens and areas of historical importance, as the government leans on the UK’s tech ingenuity to drive forward new ways to meet connectivity challenges.

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-science-innovation-and-technology

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/one-million-premises-upgraded-to-gigabit-broadband-by-government

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