Work is also starting on the largest ever £100m Gigabit project contract to connect 60,000 rural homes and businesses in Cumbria, delivered by Fibrus.
- A mountain relief base and a 12th-century abbey will benefit from government tests of satellites to connect remote sites
- Broadband voucher scheme to help people get better connections whose value will triple to £4,500 – funding gigabit connections in more rural communities
LONDON (UK Government PR) – Some of the UK’s most remote homes and businesses will be connected to better broadband, beamed down to earth via satellite, as part of the Government’s new plans to ensure everyone can access fast, reliable coverage wherever they live or work.
A trial officially launched today will see how well satellites can be used to deliver high-speed connections to more than a dozen ‘very hard to reach’ locations – less than one per cent of sites that are too difficult to upgrade via physical cables in more extreme locations such as mountainous areas or small islands.
A 12th century abbey in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, a Scout campsite in Snowdonia, a mountain rescue base in the Lake District and other remote premises will be equipped with equipment to connect to an orbiting satellite around the globe and benefit from broadband ten times faster than what is currently available to them.
Following the trials, the government will examine the viability of using satellite technology to connect very hard-to-reach homes and businesses across the UK.
It comes as the government signs its biggest contract ever under its £5billion scheme to deploy gigabit-enabled connections in hard-to-reach areas, Project Gigabit. The £108million contract, awarded to Northern Ireland-based provider Fibrus, will connect up to 60,000 rural homes and businesses in Cumbria that might otherwise have missed out on upgrades to faster gigabit speeds.
Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan said:
Broadband broadband beamed down to Earth from space could be the answer to connectivity problems faced by people living in premises stuck in the digital slow lane.
Ensuring that everyone can get a quality internet connection is crucial to our upgrade plans and these trials aim to find a solution to the prohibitive cost of deploying cables in remote locations.
We are also today launching plans for our largest broadband build to date, as we announce a further £100 million will be spent through our Project Gigabit programme.
The Cumbria contract is the latest in a series of deals signed under Project Gigabit in recent weeks to level out the north of England, with plans underway to connect thousands of hard-to-reach premises in Northumberland and Teesdale.
As part of a new broadband boost for rural areas, the government will triple the value of vouchers available under the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. From early next year, eligible homes and businesses will be able to claim up to £4,500 to cover the costs of a gigabit-enabled connection, up from £1,500 for homes and £3,500 for businesses previously. , which will allow broadband providers to reach further into rural areas where construction costs are higher.
Gigabit-enabled broadband networks are fast and future-ready, allowing communities to work, stream and browse seamlessly without any of the disruptions associated with aging copper networks.
Entire families will be able to stream movies, TV shows and video games in the new high-quality 4K and 8K definition to multiple devices at the same time, without slowing down the speed.
This will pave the way for revolutionary new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and more internet-connected smart devices at home and at work to make our lives easier and more productive.
And it will fuel our innovators and wealth creators, driving growth, enabling anyone to start and run a business of any size from anywhere in the UK – from the Highlands to the Norfolk Broads and from the Welsh Valleys to Lake District.
More than 72% of the UK can access gigabit connections, up from just 6% at the start of 2019, thanks to the government’s plan to boost investment in deployment and remove barriers preventing the industry from doing so at full pace.
Satellite broadband trials
The first wave of trial sites announced today includes:
- Rievaulx Abbey, founded in 1132, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, is one of the most complete abbey ruins in England. The project will improve connectivity on the site and is expected to help visitors and researchers engage with educational content related to the ancient monument.
- Wasdale Head in the Lake District will be connected to explore how better broadband can improve operations in ‘black spot’ communication areas for mountain rescue team radio and global positioning services.
- Snowdonia National Park will see two sites connected: the base of the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organization (Sefydliad Achub Mynydd Dyffryn Ogwen) to support their rescue operations and Ty Cornel, an outdoor activity center in Crafnant Valley run by Scouts Cymru to help improve safety for scouts and the public traversing the secluded 25-acre site as well as setting up new educational resources for visiting school, university or Scout groups.
Other sites have been identified in the UK and discussions for other test sites are ongoing, including on small islands in England, Scotland and Wales. In addition to testing the technical capability of the satellites, the trial will assess the benefits that faster connections will bring to these remote sites.
Andrea Selley, Territory Manager for the North at English Heritage said:
We are very happy to be part of this trial and would like to thank the DCMS for their support. Rievaulx Abbey is nestled in a beautiful yet remote setting, this new satellite service will ensure better connectivity for our visitors and staff.
The first wave of sites is supported by equipment provided by Starlink, given the readiness and availability of its technology. DCMS continues to discuss the capability of other solutions and services with vendors, including the use of other vendors such as Oneweb on more complex sites.
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are positioned approximately 550 to 1,000 km above the Earth’s surface and, unlike larger geostationary satellites, move along their own orbit. Being closer to Earth than previous generations of satellites makes more applications possible, including video calling and real-time collaboration, while making activities like web browsing much smoother . The limited terrestrial infrastructure required means they can provide additional resilience to critical networks in remote, often hazardous environments.
Recent tests have shown that in many places these satellites can provide speeds of up to 200 megabits per second, well above the speeds possible over copper cables commonly used in hard-to-reach areas today. .
Gigabit Project: Cumbria
The £108m contract awarded to Fibrus will cover rural towns, villages and hamlets across the region, from Grasmere to Gilsland. Now that the contract is signed, Fibrus will immediately begin building the network with the first connections expected in the spring.
The investment in Cumbria will also create new learning and employment opportunities in the county. Following today’s announcement, Fibrus is set to create at least 90 apprenticeship positions over the next three years – covering a range of roles from underground and overhead cabling to surveying – and d invest £50,000 to set up an apprenticeship training academy near Penrith.
Other regions including Cornwall, Hampshire, Shropshire & Telford, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk are all awaiting contract awards by summer 2023.
Dominic Kearns, CEO of Fibrus, said:
Fibrus considers it a privilege to deliver a transformative project for Cumbria that will change the lives of people living in rural and regional areas. Fibrus is committed to supporting local communities, ensuring that any work undertaken on our behalf supports learnings and enables more people to experience the benefits of whole fiber.
This win helps us continue our mission and commitment to bringing fast, reliable and affordable broadband to everyone.
Gigabit Broadband Coupon Program
The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme ensures that rural communities and businesses, which commercial providers do not plan to reach, can get more immediate relief with the costs of installing a gigabit-enabled broadband connection.
Businesses or residents eligible for gigabit vouchers can access the program through a registered provider. Suppliers can develop a project proposal to connect rural communities where there is demand for upgrades and then apply for vouchers on their behalf. Funding is not committed until a requested voucher has been approved by DCMS.
Overall, over 111,000 vouchers have been issued under government voucher schemes and to date over 77,000 of these vouchers have been used to connect premises to gigabit-enabled broadband.
The announcement comes ahead of Small Business Saturday, which highlights the 5.5 million small businesses registered in the UK. The boost to the voucher system will directly support small businesses in rural areas across the country early next year.
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, James Cartlidge, said:
Breaking down barriers and boosting competition in the telecommunications sector will help deliver fast and reliable gigabit broadband to every corner of the UK.
Using innovative methods to bring broadband to remote areas, alongside this latest Gigabit Project deal to level the North of England, will connect thousands more hard-to-reach premises, helping people get connect and stay connected.
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