New Plan to Increase Full Fibre Broadband Cover in Cambridgeshire

fibre optic cable wave

The Cambridgeshire County Council in England has today set an “ambitious new target,” which will see them aim to achieve “over” 30% coverage of Gigabit speed “full fibre” (FTTP etc.) broadband connectivity across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough by 2022, among other things.

At present “full fibre” networks are already said to cover around 8.4% of premises in the county, which is above Ofcom’s most recent national UK average of around 6%+. On top of that the local Connecting Cambridgeshire project is still working alongside Openreach (BT) to help extend fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) coverage to over 99% of premises in the county by the end of 2020 (here).

However last year also revealed a new £5.6m investment by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and £4m from the Government’s new Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme, which were both confirmed as part of the region’s new digital strategy (here).

On top of that Cityfibre and Vodafone are already in the process of deploying FTTH to cover homes in both Cambridge (here) and Peterborough (here). Not to mention similar network expansions by other ISPs and operators, such as Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and Openreach (BT) etc.

Suffice to say that a lot of progress is already being made, which may explain why the local authority thinks their full fibre plans “can be achieved within the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme’s budget“, at no extra cost to the Council, following successful bids for over £14m additional EU and Government funding*, together with private investment from commercial providers.

Councillor Ian Bates, Chair of the Economy and Environment Committee, said:

“Cambridgeshire County Council’s forward thinking approach to extending full fibre coverage aims to put the county at the forefront of the UK’s digital development and supports the Government’s ambition to reach 50% of the country with fibre by 2025.

It builds upon Connecting Cambridgeshire’s strength in delivering leading digital programmes, particularly the superfast broadband rollout which will reach 97% of premises this year, and is on track to reach over 99% of the county by 2020, bringing the latest fibre to the premise technology to rural areas.

Digital connectivity is a ‘game changer’ so we must plan ahead to increase the availability of gigabit services for homes and businesses across the county by using public sector assets innovatively and creating conditions that make it commercially viable for full fibre rollout.”

The forward thinking plans, which have been in development for awhile, are currently still subject to the approval by Members of the County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee on 14th March 2019. But at this stage that vote appears to be more of a rubber stamping exercise.

The Four Year Plan

· Using Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) technology to complete the superfast broadband rollout, which is on track to reach over 99% of homes and businesses by 2020, including Government funding for 5000 additional premises in hard to reach rural areas.

· Maximising commercial investment – proactively removing barriers to rolling out telecoms infrastructure through the Enabling Digital Delivery (EDD) team. In the last year, over £80m has been invested in full fibre networks across the county by commercial providers*.

· Using the Council’s assets to support better connectivity such as making fibre ducting under the Busway and cycleways available on a commercial basis.

· Upgrading around 150 public buildings with full fibre to support gigabit-capable services, particularly rural areas of Huntingdonshire, East Cambridgeshire and Fenland using Government funding.

Creating a leading edge Council policy for fibre ducting to be included in all new transport infrastructure schemes.

In terms of the additional funding that will be required to help support all this, the current programme includes £10m+ clawback from BT to extend the superfast broadband roll-out (greater focus expected on FTTP), £4m from the LFFN fund, £4m from DEFRA’s Rural Broadband Scheme and £5.6m from the CPCA to expand the digital connectivity strategy, plus another bid for further EU funding.

Meanwhile private sector investment in local full fibre networks is said to total £80m. The council has also provided a useful infographic for their plan (you might need to right-click and open in a separate window to read it properly as it’s quite large).

connecting cambridgeshire broadband target infographic 2019

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