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. 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.  Three Lots are relevant to Northamptonshire. Lot 5 and Lot 12 are the main ones, plus Lots 11 involving smaller areas of the county.  Lot 5 falls into procurement Phase 1a (Cambridgeshire and surrounding areas, including part of North Northamptonshire). Lot 12 falls into procurement Phase 2b (Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, most of West Northamptonshire and part of North Northamptonshire) as does Lot 11 (Leicestershire, Warwickshire and a small part of Northamptonshire).

BDUK Project Gigabit Map December 23 V2.jpg

Further Information

Visit the Project Gigabit Campaign website

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:

Lot 5 is centred around Cambridgeshire and includes Peterborough and parts of North Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Hertfordshire.

The Lot 5 procurement was launched in January 2022. The contract award was finally made in March 2023, with CityFibre announced as the winning bidder.

The Government’s Project Gigabit £69 million subsidy along with a commercial investment of £53 million by CityFibre will bring full fibre gigabit capable broadband to around 45,000 homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire and neighbouring areas including parts of North Northamptonshire.

CityFibre state that they are the UK’s largest open access, fibre only operator, with services live in cities, towns, and villages across the country. They aim to serve 8 million homes across the UK by 2025. They already have a strong presence in Northamptonshire including serving most of Northampton and they are currently building their full fibre networks in Kettering and Wellingborough.

As part of its private investment, CityFibre has committed an additional £300,000 local stimulus package to create local jobs and provide training across the Lot 5 area - including construction and engineering internships for disadvantaged groups such as armed forces leavers, people with disabilities and those affected by Covid.

How many rural premises in North Northamptonshire are set to benefit has yet to be announced. Further information will be provided once available. 

It is expected that the Lot 5 Project Gigabit build by CityFibre will take around 5 years to roll out, with the first premises delivered and able to order services in 2024.

You can view the government’s press release below:

You can find out more on the CityFibre Project Gigabit webpage below:

What does the Procurement Involve?

​The procurement set out to find the best offer from a telecoms provider to work with the government agency Building Digital UK (BDUK) and local authority partners to bring gigabit capable broadband networks to serve those premises in need. Around 49,700 premises were deemed eligible and in scope of Lot 5 when the procurement was launched. These are the target premises with potential to benefit from intervention through public subsidy provided towards the cost of network build. These areas are where, at the time of the procurement launch, there were no viable commercial planned upgrades in the next few years.  The public subsidy offered in support of the procurement was £69 million.

Lot 5 is a significant area including Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and parts of North Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Hertfordshire. When the contract was awarded to CityFibre in March 2023, it was expected that 45,000 premises were set to benefit across this area. 

Intervention Area

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 potentially 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.

 Map showing the intervention area for Lot 5

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

​Lot 11 is primarily focused on Leicestershire and Warwickshire but also includes a sliver of Northamptonshire, from Lilbourne to Great Oxenden in the West and from Braybrooke and Sutton Bassett to Wakeley in the North.  The Project Gigabit boundaries are shown in red on the When and Where map.

The procurement for Lot 11 was launched in March 2023.  BDUK awarded CityFibre the £71m contract in February 2024.  This will deliver full fibre broadband to serve around 38,000 of the 45,400 eligible premises across Leicestershire and Warwickshire and should provide some benefits in Northamptonshire.  Details of the latter are not yet confirmed. More information will be posted here when known.

Intervention Area

A Public Review to help determine the intervention area was launched on 17th June 2022 and closed on 18 July 2022. This followed a consultation with telecoms providers.

The geography of the area provisionally in scope of Lot 11 within North and West Northamptonshire is shown in the Leicestershire and Warwickshire Lot 11 Public Review Closure Notice which confirmed the intervention area, including an illustrative postcode level map of the outcome.

This is shown below and indicates areas where those premises eligible for subsidy are located i.e. White areas. These eligible premises may be included within scope of the Lot 11 procurement and could benefit from public funding.  Black, Grey and Blue (Under Review) areas indicate areas where premises are ineligible for subsidy due to commercial coverage and plans.

Leicestershire and Warwickshire (Lot 11) Postcode level map (showing subsidy control classifications at a postcode level)

Leicestershire and Warwickshire (Lot 11) Postcode level map

More information will be posted here when available.

The Lot 12 procurement includes most of West Northamptonshire, the western side of North Northamptonshire, Central Bedfordshire, Bedford and Milton Keynes. The Project Gigabit boundaries are shown in red on the When and Where map.

The Lot 12 procurement was launched by BDUK in February 2023, with and Invitation to Tender published in May 2023. BDUK awarded the contract to CityFibre in February 2024.

The public subsidy available for the Lot 12 procurement is £51.4m, with 30,300 eligible premises in scope, of which around 25,000 fall within CityFibre's announced plans.

Details of where CityFibre plan to build are not yet available but are expected to include to Ecton and Greatworth in Northamptonshire. Other rural towns and villages surrounding Corby, Daventry, Kettering and Wellingborough are also expected to be upgraded.  

More information will be posted here as and when it becomes available.

For more information go to the BDUK Lot 12 webpage Project Gigabit network build contract - Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Intervention Area

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. 

A Public Review Closure Notice was published in February 2023 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.  This involves as estimated 30,800 premises across the Lot 12 geography.

The intervention area map published by BDUK following the Public Review is shown below.  Eligible premises fall within 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 not included in the initial scope of the procurement – this is where the delivery of commercial plans is more uncertain.

Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes (Lot 12) Postcode level map (showing subsidy control classifications at a postcode level)

Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes (Lot 12) Postcode level map

You can view more information on the UK Gigabit Programme: Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes Public Review web page.

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.

In November 2022, BDUK announced upgrades to the scheme to target premises in particularly hard to reach areas. The voucher scheme now provides an increased subsidy of up to £4,500 for eligible residents and businesses  towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband via local community broadband projects. 

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.