Coronavirus Pandemic Impacts Full Fibre Broadband Rollout

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Government finances are hurting. Delay to ambitious plan to roll out gigabit broadband to every home in UK by 2025, after pandemic spending review

The spending review by Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered a little bit of bad news for the deployment of ultra-fast full fibre broadband in the UK.

The spending review was undertaken after the government had to reassess its financial situation in light of its heavy spending due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.

The government back in December 2019 had pledged to roll out gigabit-speed broadband to every home in Britain by 2025.

Ultrafast broadband

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously been outspoken about the need for the UK to accelerate the deployment of ultrafast fibre broadband across the UK, after he called for the technology to be made available to “every home in the land” within five years.

Prior to that, the government had originally set a goal of 2033 for the rollout of fibre to all premises, a target Johnson had previously called “laughably unambitious” – before the government set the 2025 deadline.

Openreach was onboard, and in July it detailed its plans to roll out next generation fibre connections capable of 1Gbps in the hardest to reach areas in the United Kingdom.

Commercial telecoms FTTP (fibre to the premise) is expected to reach 70 percent of UK homes without government help.

In January this year before the Coronavirus pandemic really began to hit hard, Openreach had announced it was ‘accelerating’ its full fibre build to ‘harder to reach’ market towns, villages & rural areas.

Spending review

But following Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review, the 2025 deadline for every UK home as been scaled back.

Now the aim is to have a “minimum of 85 percent coverage” by that date, although the £5 billion budget remains intact.

According to its published announcement, the government confirmed it has now allocated £1.2bn (between 2021-22 to 2024-25) from the programme’s £5bn budget to “subsidise the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband … to the hardest-to-reach areas” (more funding will be allocated over the next 4 years).

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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