Building Digital UK - Project Gigabit

​In March 2021, the Government revealed its plans for the first measures under its £5bn rebranded broadband connectivity programme known as Project Gigabit (formerly ‘Outside In’). This is the Government’s national mission to deliver gigabit capable, reliable broadband for everyone in the UK.

Background

The Government has set a target to see at least 85% of UK premises able to access gigabit capable broadband by 2025, and to achieve as close to 100% coverage thereafter. At a UK level the Government expect over 80% of coverage to be delivered commercially by broadband network providers. Project Gigabit is providing a catalyst for that commercial investment and providing subsidy to serve the 'hardest-to-reach' properties which are not viable commercially.

Regional procurements, led and managed by Building Digital UK (BDUK), the government agency leading on all things broadband, are coming forward in Phases in support of the gigabit roll out. Commercial broadband network suppliers will compete to win the contracts to help deliver Project Gigabit.  Two Lots are relevant to Northamptonshire - Lot 5 Phase 1a (Cambridgeshire and surrounding areas, including part of North Northants) and Lot 12 Phase 2b (Bedfordshire, parts of Northamptonshire (North Northants and West Northants) and Milton Keynes).

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You can find out more about Project Gigabit and the expected scope of the procurements, including those relevant to Northamptonshire, in the BDUK updates available below:

​Registration for the Lot 5 procurement opened in January 2022. Contract award is expected by the end of the year. A Public Review to inform the Lot 5 intervention area was launched in May 2021 and closed in June 2021.  It includes eligible premises within the rural eastern half of North Northants and around Corby.  The Public Review closure notice, including illustrative maps of the outcome, can be viewed here:

Cambridgeshire Lot 5 Closure Notice (publishing.service.gov.uk)

The scope of coverage to be delivered through Lot 5 (which premises will benefit) will not be known until contracts are awarded. More information will be posted here when available.

​The Lot 12 procurement is expected to start in summer 2022, with contract award in the summer of 2023. Timescales may be subject to change. Lot 12 includes a geography covering most of West Northants and the western side of North Northants. 

BDUK launched a Public Review on the Lot 12 intervention area on 29th March 2022.  This closes at 5pm on 29th April 2022.  This is primarily aimed at telecoms providers but is open to all stakeholders to respond. It aims to determine where telecoms providers have existing or planned gigabit capable network coverage looking ahead to 2026.  Those areas which fall outside of commercial plans are expected to be eligible for intervention through Lot 12. 

To respond to this Public Review, and for more information, please see BDUK's page below which is available from 5pm on 29th March 2022:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/uk-gigabit-programme-bedfordshire-northamptonshire-and-milton-keynes-public-review

The scope of coverage to be delivered through Lot 12 (which premises will benefit from access to gigabit broadband connectivity) will not be known until contracts are awarded. More information will be posted here when available.

​In addition to the phased procurements, the UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme (UKGV) was re-launched in March 2021 (£210m) and provides complementary support for connectivity to unserved premises. Owners of eligible homes and businesses can apply for a voucher worth £1,500 and £3,500 respectively to secure a new gigabit capable connection with a registered supplier – residents working together to promote a cluster of premises are likely to be more appealing to attract the interest of a telecoms provider.  

Please note that the UKGV scheme will pause in areas which are the subject of a wider Project Gigabit procurement, once that procurement is underway, and until contracts are awarded.  This impacts parts of North Northants which fall within Lot 5 and those parts of North and West Northants which fall within Lot 12.

Gigabit capable broadband can provide a download speed of at least 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) (equivalent to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) which can be delivered by a range of technologies. People can order services of less than a gigabit on such networks, but they provide the potential for gigabit services for those data hungry households and businesses.

These include full-fibre networks, high-speed cable such as Virgin Media’s latest DOCSIS 3.1 cable upgrade, 5G and some Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) networks. Gigabit capable networks are more reliable than existing copper wires or partial fibre networks (Fibre to the Cabinet) which are currently more widespread.