Next steps in Government’s £5 billion gigabit broadband planGulistan Ladha
DCMS has launched a technical consultation on its draft procurement strategy for the UK Gigabit Programme setting out plans to connect the first one million homes and businesses and maximise coverage in the hardest to reach 20% of the UK by 2025. The consultation seeks views to help target delivery of the programme, which includes demand-led approaches such as the voucher scheme and the new ‘outside-in’ supply-side interventions. The new procurements for gigabit infrastructure will begin in Spring 2021 and build is expected to begin at the end of 2021/early 2022.
Up to 26 large regions of England are most likely to attract commercial investment but will need a subsidy to reach the hardest 40,000-80,000 premises in each area. It is expected that larger broadband suppliers, including challengers to incumbents, will bid for these areas. There will be smaller contracts to connect around 1,000-8,000 premises, to stimulate competition across a wider range of small, medium-sized and rural specialist telecoms providers. The government will work closely with the Devolved Administrations to develop plans to complement these contracts and extend gigabit coverage across the whole of the UK. 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. This will help ensure that no areas are left behind even those where there is a limited prospect of competition.
Government is also seeking industry views on how to extend its successful Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme beyond April 2021. The scheme allows people in rural areas to request a gigabit connection with the government subsidising the installation costs. This would help broadband suppliers respond to increasing consumer demand for gigabit broadband while the new procurements get up and running.