The U.K. government targeted broadband upgrades for 2.2 million locations across the country, expanding the scope of a massive digital infrastructure initiative known as Project Gigabit.
Launched in March, the £5 billion ($6.94 billion) campaign aims to ensure 85% of the country is covered with gigabit-capable service by 2025.
Approximately 349,000 premises across nine counties were initially identified as eligible for Phase 1a of the project. In an update issued this week, the government said an additional 1.85 million premises across 26 English counties have been identified as eligible for funded coverage under the program, raising the total number of in-scope locations to 2.2 million. Even more locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to be announced in the coming months.
Nearly 480,000 premises are set to be included in Phase 1b, with procurement for these set to begin in February 2022. Phase 2 will cover an additional 1.37 million locations, with procurement taking place between May and November 2022.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden stated that through Project Gigabit “millions more rural homes and businesses will now be lifted out of the digital slow lane.”
The government-funded project is designed to supplement industry-led efforts to expand broadband coverage in the country. Since announcing the Project Gigabit in March, the government said it has successfully encouraged operators including BT’s Openreach and Virgin Media O2 to accelerate their network improvement plans. By way of example, it noted Openreach’s decision in May to raise its fiber deployment target from 20 million homes to 25 million homes by 2026.
In its Project Gigabit Summer Update report, the U.K. government said that with commercial investments, approximately 60% of the country will have access to gigabit speeds by the end of 2021. It added “the market is on track to deliver gigabit-capable networks to at least 80% of U.K. premises by December 2025,” with public funding from Project Gigabit set to fill in the remaining 5% to reach its 85% target.