£1.1bn for rural full fibre

Government investment will see some 677,000 premises in hard-to-reach towns and villages connected to gigabit broadband  

As we hardly need telling you, Project Gigabit is the government’s flagship programme to connect more people round the country to lightning-fast and reliable broadband. Faster, better connections are better for business and for public services, and good for growing the economy. 

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Households can stream high-definition TV, films and games. The infrastructure also supports the video calls that have become so much a part of our daily lives.  

However, the focus has often been on faster, better connections within our towns and cities. This government investment is to ensure no one gets left behind. 

The government says the UK is building gigabit networks faster than any country in the EU. Last month, 80% of the UK could access gigabit-capable broadband – up from just 6% in 2019. The aim is to reach 85% of coverage by 2025. 

As part of the new funding, six contracts worth more than £450m have been announced that will connect some 236,000 premises in total, with the first connections expected in early 2025. 

Five of these contracts are with broadband provider CityFibre: 

  • £51.4m for 25,760 premises in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes 
  • £58.8m for 34,273 premises in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and East Berkshire 
  • £71.5m for 38,600 premises in Leicestershire and Warwickshire  
  • £100.6m for 52,900 premises in East and West Sussex 
  • £112.3m for 50,900 premises in Kent 

The sixth contract is award to Hull-based provider Connexin: 

  • £58.6m for 34,320 premises in Nottinghamshire and West Lincolnshire. 

As part of this investment, CityFibre will offer 40 apprenticeships (at least eight per year) for the duration of the contract, giving young people across the UK the opportunity to develop skills in telecoms and highway maintenance. Connexin is also committed to mentoring and apprenticeship programmes as part of the programme, and will also support community initiatives. 

Julia Lopez, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, says: ‘We’re wasting no time in our mission to bring lightning-fast broadband to rural areas – with a billion pounds in contracts already signed with broadband companies to get our next-generation network up and running. 

‘Project Gigabit is already driving growth, creating jobs and putting an end to snail’s pace internet speeds, and we will continue to work rapidly to ensure people feel the benefits of our rollout to even more places across the UK as quickly as possible.’ 

Greg Mesch, Chief Executive Officer at CityFibre, adds: ‘We’re thrilled to be a key delivery partner for the government on this critical infrastructure project, transforming the digital capabilities of rural homes and businesses across the country. But that’s just the start. We’re continuing to expand our commercial rollout alongside Project Gigabit, extending infrastructure choice, multi-gigabit speeds, and unparalleled reliability to hundreds of thousands of additional premises in these regions.’  

Furqan Alamgir, CEO at Connexin, says: ‘Through the award of this contract, we are delighted to be able to play our part in the UK government’s mission to level up and bring gigabit connectivity to our rural communities. 

‘At Connexin our mission is not just about connecting people but also about how such connectivity can improve lives. We believe that everyone has the right to the same opportunities, and we firmly believe in digital inclusion and what it can unlock. 

‘We look forward to working with BDUK to future proof the infrastructure and bring hyperfast broadband to the region.’

In related news:

Gigabit a priority for local councils, 5G not so much

New research for Safer Internet Day 2024

Community digital health hubs in Sunderland


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