Project Gigabit - Building Digital UK

​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).

Map showing the locations and procurement status for Project Gigabit Lots as at 30 May 2022

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:

Which areas does Lot 5 cover?

Lot 5 is centred around Cambridgeshire and includes Peterborough and parts of North Northamptonshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Rutland.  The Lot 5 procurement was launched in January 2022. In May 2022, BDUK reported that Contract Award was anticipated in November 2022. 

How many premises are in scope of the procurement?

There are 49,700 premises in Lot 5 which are in scope of the procurement. These are the target premises with potential to benefit from intervention through public subsidy towards the cost of network build.  These areas are where there are currently no viable commercial planned upgrades in the next few years.  The public subsidy available is £68.6 million. 

How many of these premises will be confirmed in plans to be served will not be known until the contract has been awarded (this may still change during the lifetime of the contract).

What are the timescales?

A Public Review to inform the Lot 5 intervention area was launched in May 2021 and closed in June 2021. This followed a consultation with telecoms providers. The geography of the area in scope of Lot 5 within North Northamptonshire is shown in the map below – the White areas. Those areas shown in Grey and Black are where there is existing or planned gigabit capable network coverage by one (Grey) or more (Black) telecoms providers. Those areas in Blue are under review and are areas of deferred scope – this is where the delivery of commercial plans is more uncertain.

Further information

View the Cambridgshire Lot 5 Public Review Closure Notice which confirmed the intervention area, including illustrative maps of the outcome for further information.

More information will be posted here when available.

What areas does Lot 12 cover?

The Lot 12 procurement includes most of West Northamptonshire, the western side of North Northamptonshire (area not in Lot 5), Central Bedfordshire, Bedford and Milton Keynes.

What are the timescales?

BDUK’s Spring Update in May 2022 reported that the procurement was expected to start between December 2022 and February 2023, with contract award likely between October and December 2023. Timescales may be subject to change.

BDUK launched a Public Review on the Lot 12 intervention area in March 2022 which closed in late April 2022. This followed a consultation with telecoms providers on their existing and planned coverage, looking ahead to 2026. Data is now being processed and reviewed by BDUK to determine the eligible intervention area for Lot 12.

A Public Review Closure Notice will be published in due course to report on the outcome of the consultation and confirm the intervention area.  This is where subsidy could be invested in network build to bring gigabit capable connectivity to premises in need. The intervention area will focus on those premises without viable commercial plans.

How many premises are in scope of the procurement?

In May 2022 BDUK estimated that as many as 81,300 premises could be eligible in the Lot 12 geography, although this figure is expected to reduce following the Public Review closure which will take account of the latest commercial plans.  It is not yet clear how many premises within Northamptonshire may be in scope. The public subsidy available for the Lot 12 procurement is between £84 million and £144 million.

Further information

More information can found at 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, and this could still change throughout the lifetime of the contract.

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.