Northamptonshire has ambitious targets for digital connectivity in support of an entrepreneurial, competitive and vibrant local economy, as well as improving quality of life for local residents and the experience of visitors to the area. These broadband coverage targets can be viewed on our background and targets page. They support local aims to ensure that North and West Northamptonshire together are one of the best-connected places in the UK. Good progress is already being made but more needs to be done.
Northants Broadband Coverage progress
Data source: www.thinkbroadband.com
Inviting a strong market
Promoting both North and West Northamptonshire as great places for commercial investment by telecoms providers is important to realising local ambitions. Attracting the interest of telecoms providers aims to maximise commercial coverage without the need for public funding. It also increases competition, encourages innovation and provides choice for end users. This approach has been successful with several new fibre network providers investing significantly in the county since the start of the Superfast Northamptonshire project back in 2011 and more recently, Project Gigabit. A list of the known commercial fibre suppliers in Northamptonshire can be found on the Telecoms Providers page.
Public intervention where needed
Commercial provision is not viable everywhere. Places which fall outside of commercial plans are the focus for public investment. This has been managed in stages as resources and plans are secured.
At the outset of the UK digital infrastructure programmes, the government’s focus was on enabling more widespread superfast broadband coverage. This meant minimum download speeds of over 24Mbps (since adjusted to a minimum of 30Mbps). Fibre or fibre-based broadband (part fibre, part copper network) was not widespread at the time. Indeed, when we launched Superfast Northamptonshire only 60% of premises in the county had access to superfast broadband and only 0.4% of premises had full fibre. With so many premises in need of faster broadband across the UK, including Northamptonshire, a fibre-based technology, Fibre to the Cabinet, offered a solution to provide significant speed uplifts to large volumes of premises in a relatively short delivery time (when compared to rolling out pure full fibre).
Superfast Northamptonshire delivery
Stage 1 and Stage 2 of Superfast Northamptonshire, which were delivered by Openreach, enabled around 73,000 homes and businesses to access superfast broadband – that’s 20% of all premises in the county. This public/private sector investment, along with other commercial interest, enabled superfast broadband coverage to reach 97% of premises in the county by the end of 2017. Superfast coverage is now over 99%.
In advance of government’s Project Gigabit programme, Stage 3 of Superfast Northamptonshire secured a ‘future proof’ full fibre solution for many rural areas in the county. Gigaclear Networks is expected to complete its network build to around 6,800 premises in the Summer of 2023. This is alongside their substantial commercial programme which has already served over 50,000 rural premises in the area.
The digital infrastructure programme has now moved on and is focused on delivering gigabit capable broadband infrastructure across the UK. Building Digital UK (BDUK) is managing regional and local procurements to extend gigabit coverage further in areas of market failure through Project Gigabit. This is also acting as a catalyst for major commercial investment by telecoms providers. Project Gigabit also involves the UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme, relaunched in April 2021, and refreshed again in December 2022, with an increase in voucher value. You can find out more in the Support section on the website.
Progress on superfast, ultrafast, gigabit capable and full fibre targets
Broadband coverage on average across Northamptonshire continues to perform strongly compared to the average for England. Having already achieved local superfast and ultrafast broadband coverage targets in March 2021, we are continuing to work towards our gigabit capable and full fibre broadband targets.
At the outset of each stage of the project, the Local Body (authority responsible for the broadband programme in the area) is required to determine where public investment is needed to bring forward superfast or gigabit capable broadband. These are the areas of market failure where there are no apparent commercial plans to upgrade telecoms networks. The Local Body determines this through a process known as an Open Market Review (OMR).
Through the OMR, the Local Body consults telecoms providers to find out where they already have network and where they are planning to serve in the next three years looking ahead. This involves the analysis of a huge amount of data. This is because there are over 360,500 premises and over 16,600 postcodes in the North and West Northamptonshire area, as well as several different telecoms providers and not all will use the same baseline data. This data is reconciled and brought together into a single postcode or premise level data set for the area, setting out where commercial plans are expected. The outcome of the OMR is captured on proposed State Aid Intervention Area maps for Next Generation Access (NGA) coverage (providing for speeds above 30Mbps). You can find out more about NGA in the Network Build and Technologies FAQs.
The State Aid Intervention Area maps show where there is or is expected to be commercial coverage (shown in Grey or Black) and areas still in need i.e. where there are no known commercial plans – these are the White areas which represent the proposed Intervention Area for public investment. The Intervention Area maps are consulted on through a State Aid Public Consultation.
On conclusion of this consultation, the Local Body has to make any adjustments required to the mapping following any responses received, as appropriate. The maps and the methodology are then reported to the National Competence Centre, managed by Building Digital UK (BDUK), to notify them of the intention to invest public funding in the Intervention Area and to secure clearance for this 'State aid'. You can find out more on the State Aid Public Consultation web page.
This process was followedby the former County Council in 2012, 2014 and 2015/16 for the purpose of Stages 1, 2 and 3 of the Superfast Northamptonshire project. An OMR was carried out by the County Council in the Autumn of 2019 and the most recent State Aid Public Consultation was undertaken in November/December 2020. BDUK will undertake similar OMR and Public Review processes under new UK aid regulations in advance of Project Gigabit regional procurements.
Full fibre coverage in Northamptonshire stood at only 0.4% in 2012. However, we saw a tenfold increase in the five years from 1.7% in January 2016 to 17% in January 2021.
Full fibre coverage doubled in 2021 alone, reaching 35.5% of premises at the end of December 2021. This compared to the average for England of 29.1% of premises at that time. Our December 2023 target to achieve 40% full fibre coverage across Northamptonshire was met 18 months early and we are on track to reach our next target to see 80% availability of full fibre across Northamptonshire by the end of 2028.
Full fibre coverage had reached over 63% on average in February 2023, with performance higher in West Northants largely due to widespread full fibre coverage by Openreach and CityFibre in Northampton.
Local gigabit capable broadband coverage stood at only 0.4% in 2012. It continued to mirror full fibre levels in the five years to January 2021.
However, 2021 brought a massive leap in the availability of gigabit capable broadband, reaching 75% of Northamptonshire premises on average by the end of December 2021 – achieving our 2023 gigabit target two years early. This was largely due to Virgin Media upgrading the capability of its cable network in the summer of 2021. This compared to gigabit capable coverage of 66.5% for England at the end of December 2021.
By February 2023, gigabit cable networks had reached over 85% of premises across Northamptonshire.
Our next target to see 90% availability of gigabit broadband countywide by the end of 2028 is in sight although progress will be slower than past performance.
To view progress on local superfast and full fibre coverage in the county and other areas visit the ThinkBroadband website, the UK's largest independent broadband news and information site.
can find out more about how superfast broadband plans are coming forward in the
county by visiting our interactive When and Where map.