Project Gigabit lightning fast broadband plan: Which areas will get it first?

19 March 2021, 09:47

The first areas targeted for a £5 billion broadband upgrade have been revealed
The first areas targeted for a £5 billion broadband upgrade have been revealed. Picture: Getty

By Maddie Goodfellow

The first areas targeted for the government's £5 billion Project Gigabit broadband upgrade have been revealed. But what is the project and which areas could be first to see super speeds?

Boris Johnson has promised a "rocket boost" for parts of the country with slow broadband as part of his the latest pledge in his "levelling up" agenda.

He is promising an internet revolution with funding for more than a million hard-to-reach homes and businesses to have the next generation "gigabit" broadband installed to "fire up people's businesses and homes".

It is the first phase of a £5 billion government infrastructure project and will benefit areas in the north of England and areas that have traditionally suffered from slow broadband speeds.

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Boris Johnson has promised a "rocket boost" for parts of the country with slow broadband
Boris Johnson has promised a "rocket boost" for parts of the country with slow broadband. Picture: PA

What is the government proposing with Project Gigabit?

The government is proposing a £5 billion broadband upgrade, focussing on the areas of the country with the slowest speeds, with work to start in 2022.

Firms will be able to bid for contracts on the project from spring, with "spades in the ground" in the first half of 2022, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

In addition, £210 million worth of vouchers will be available once again from April 8, allowing eligible residents to ask for up to £1,500 and businesses £3,500 towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband.

Some £110 million has been set aside to support GP surgeries, libraries and schools, while the Government also explores how satellite and 5G technology could be used to connect very hard to reach spots, starting with a call for evidence.

The development comes after regulator Ofcom announced that it will not impose price caps on full-fibre connections provided by firms, as part of new rules.

Oliver Dowden said that "project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK"
Oliver Dowden said that "project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK". Picture: PA

How fast will it be?

Project gigabit aims to raise broadband speeds across the country to more than 1,000 megabits or one gigabit per second.

One gigabit is the equivalent of 1,000 megabits, capable of downloading a high definition film in under a minute.

Areas that currently have slow connections and which would otherwise have been left behind in broadband companies' rollout plans will be prioritised.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country.

"This broadband revolution will fire up people's businesses and homes, and the vital public services that we all rely on, so we can continue to level up and build back better from this pandemic."

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigafit for the future."

The aim is that broadband speeds will rise to more than 1,000 megabits or one gigabit per second
The aim is that broadband speeds will rise to more than 1,000 megabits or one gigabit per second. Picture: PA

Which areas are getting it first?

As many as 510,000 homes and businesses long plagued by sluggish broadband will be front of the queue for faster speeds.

The first areas to get superfast broadband in 2022 have been announced as Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley.

Plans for six more locations - Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight - are set to follow in June, covering a further 640,000 premises.

Gigabit broadband is being rolled out rapidly - from one in 10 households in 2019 to almost two in five today.

The government claims the UK is on track for one of the fastest rollouts in Europe and for half of all households to have access to gigabit speeds by the end of this year.

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