fibre internet infrastructure rollout broadband

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

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Work has started on the first major contract under the government’s £5bn Project Gigabit, as new data shows gigabit broadband is now available for only 70 per cent of UK homes and businesses.

The £6m contract was awarded today to boost the rollout to more than 7,000 hard-to-reach properties in Dorset by 2025.

The first home will be connected by the end of the year, with an expected completion date for all by 2025. The project will cover the rural outskirts of towns, villages and hamlets across the region from Sherborne to Verwood and Shaftesbury to Blandford Forum.

The Project Gigabit fund is used to meet pledges originally announced in the 2019 Conservative manifesto to install full-fibre, gigabit-capable broadband in every home and business across the UK by 2025.

This pledge was later downgraded to just 85 per cent of premises in the UK, although MPs have questioned whether even this target is plausible considering the speed of the rollout.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said that coverage has increased from seven per cent in 2019 to 70 per cent of UK homes and businesses in 2022. In the last five months, around one million premises have been connected to gigabit networks.

Today’s signing in Dorset marks the start of a flurry of Project Gigabit delivery contracts to be awarded over the coming months, the department added.

As part of the programme, the government has already launched procurements totalling over £690m, aiming to cover up to 498,000 premises, with work due to begin to connect hard-to-reach locations in Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria and several areas across north-east England before the end of the year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “From Sherbourne to Stirling, lightning-fast broadband is levelling-up towns and villages across the country.

“In just three years we have increased the coverage of gigabit broadband from seven per cent of households to 70 per cent, and I am proud that today more than 20 million households, businesses and organisations are able to tap into rapid and reliable internet, unleashing their potential, creating opportunities and driving growth across the country.”

Digital secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Today we enter an exciting new phase of our £5bn Project Gigabit digital connectivity programme by signing our first major contract in Dorset.

“The benefits of better broadband connectivity cannot be underestimated and this work will mean those living in rural areas can enjoy 21st century speeds in the home and workplace, making their lives easier and more productive”

Gigabit broadband can provide speeds of more than 1,000 megabits per second, more than 30 times faster than copper-based superfast broadband, which is currently available to 97 per cent of UK premises.

Andrew Ferguson, Editor of thinkbroadband, said: “With seven out of 10 premises now able to order a gigabit option and over half of those are actually future-proof full-fibre shows that the UK broadband market is generally delivering on its rollout targets.

“Of course at a time when many people are looking for savings on their household bills buying a gigabit service is going to seem a luxury but one of the advantages of full fibre is you can enjoy the improved reliability even when buying the entry level services and even an entry level Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) product will be faster than an old partial-fibre service where speeds are impacted by distance to the cabinet.”

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