14 January 2021

With more people than ever working from home and increased home-schooling in response to the latest national lockdown, access to fast and reliable broadband is more crucial than ever.

Government targets are increasingly focusing on Gigabit capable broadband – networks able to support speeds of a Gigabit per second (Gbps) – as the new benchmark.

Due to efforts through the Superfast Northamptonshire initiative and commercial telecoms investment, access to this new benchmark has increased tenfold in the last five years in Northamptonshire. This is according to thinkbroadband (the UK's largest independent broadband news and information site). See the thinkbroadboand website for more information. 

In January 2016, gigabit broadband was only available to 1.7% of premises in the county compared to 17.42% reported in January 2021. The Northamptonshire figures are even more impressive as they reflect full fibre network coverage. This means that it is future proofed for speeds in excess of one Gbps, which is especially important as demand increases.

The Government’s previous benchmark has been superfast broadband coverage. This means access line speeds above 30 megabits per second (Mbps). Coverage of superfast broadband has also increased (by almost 9%) in the same period, and now stands at 98.5%. Efforts are also continuing to address those areas with slower speeds.

The focus of the superfast Northamptonshire initiative is now to work with telecoms providers to encourage and support further investment to extend faster and reliable broadband in Northamptonshire.

Contracts with Gigaclear Networks will see around 7,000 premises connected by full fibre with the support of public investment by the end of next year, and together with their current commercial investment should see over 30,000 rural properties benefit overall. 

Recent announcements by Openreach on its ‘Fibre First’ programme have boosted plans for gigabit coverage in Daventry, Towcester, Rushden and the south of Northampton exchange areas. 

With CityFibre rapidly expanding their footprint in Northampton, and OFNL covering parts of Corby, along with the forthcoming VirginMedia network upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1, the overall picture is looking very positive.

It also means that Northamptonshire is on-track to meet its local targets which are for 40% of premises to be served by full fibre networks by the end of 2023, and 75% coverage of gigabit capable networks, by the same date. These are both challenging targets and complement the Government’s current ambition to see 85% gigabit coverage nationally by 2025.

In support of its 85% national coverage target, the Government has announced a new national Gigabit programme. This will focus on the estimated final 20% of premises nationally which are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment in gigabit broadband. 

Through the superfast Northamptonshire initiative, the County Council is working with Building Digital UK (BDUK) - the government team leading on all things broadband – to ensure this further investment benefits Northamptonshire, and is targeted where commercial plans are unlikely to come forward.

Cllr Jason Smithers, Cabinet Member for Highways and Place for Northamptonshire County Council said:

 

Whilst government led and funded, it is vital that local bodies and initiatives,  such as Superfast Northamptonshire,  have an important role to play in the new programme because of their local knowledge, existing relationships with key stakeholders, role as highway authority and experience of problem solving.

“This is a message that we will be playing back to Government through BDUK, and we expect the first procurements to come forward later this year"


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