Everything you need to know about Project Gigabit

First announced in 2018, Project Gigabit aims to deliver gigabit-capable download speeds to households and businesses across the country, with nationwide coverage planned for 2030.

Having access to a quick, reliable internet connection is essential to so many people across the UK, especially those in rural areas. Not being able to access the internet for health care or education services can be detrimental to many people’s lives. As well as this, being able to connect with others online is important to ease loneliness. 

In 2023, Ofcom estimated that seven per cent of UK households did not have internet access at home. While this is down from around 11 per cent in 2020, the government is being called on to drop this number even lower. 

Project Gigabit aims to do just that. It was first announced in 2018, and hopes to extend networks capable of delivering gigabit download speeds to at least 85 per cent of UK premises by the end of 2025 and then nationwide coverage by 2030. The majority of the rollout will come through local and regional contracts, providing subsidies to suppliers to extend their gigabit-capable networks to premises that are unlikely to be reached otherwise.

Five billion pounds of investment has poured into the project. So far, the government said that one million premises have been upgraded to gigabit broadband through the project. 

What is Project Gigabit?

For those not in the know, gigabit broadband simply means it has download speeds of at least one gigabit per second. For example, a one gigabit download speed would allow a high-definition film to be downloaded in under one minute.

One aspect of Project Gigabit that can seem confusing at first is the introduction of vouchers. They are given to help those with slow speeds, and homes and businesses must apply to determine their eligibility. If they meet the criteria, these people can access up to £4,500 to cover the costs of gigabit-capable connection. It works by providing funding towards infrastructure build for eligible public sector buildings which meet qualifying criteria set by BDUK and where investment cases are clear. E

F Benefits of gigabit broadband

Carolyn Dawson, CEO of 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 the country,” she said. 

Dawson added that those building a business in Inverness or Eastbourne will “welcome” the rollout of high speed connections. 

Additionally, Gigabit Hubs were announced as part of the infrastructure upgrade. As the name suggests, they will provide new fibre right into the heart of communities for the first time, providing ‘hubs’ from which industry can connect surrounding homes and businesses. There is up to £110 million available to connect these public sector buildings – such as GP surgeries, libraries and schools – in hard to reach parts of the UK.

When announcing the progress of Project Gigabit, Michelle Donelan, technology secretary, 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.”

She added: “The UK is rolling out gigabit networks faster than any country in the EU, with eight 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.”

There have been big leaps in the progress of the project, but there is a lot more to be done and much of the budget to be spent. 

It seems the next focus of the project is to experiment with cutting-edge connection technology and to continue distributing it to all areas of the UK fairly. 

Goals

The government aims to up the percentage of the UK that is covered by gigabit broadband from 80 to 85 per cent by 2025. 

As well as this, £40 million will provide further support for three existing Future Telecoms Research Hubs – led by Imperial College London and 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.

Clive Selley, CEO at Openreach, said that the project “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.” 

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