UK government set to announce £200m fund for full fibre access

UK government set to announce £200m fund for full fibre access

The UK government is set to announce a new fund in order to drive investment in full fibre across the UK.

The UK Challenge Fund - set to be officially unveiled in November – will offer around £200 million as a delivery mechanism for full fibre access, according to William Priest, the CEO of BDUK in the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

Priest unveiled details of the fund during his opening keynote for this year’s Capacity Europe, which took place in London.

Priest said: “As the world marches on through the 20th century, a connected country is a better country for businesses. The government has a wide ranging strategy to deliver world class connectivity to our country. We need investment to build world class infrastructure in the UK to underpin growth, and much of this needs to come from the private sector.”

“We’re doing this in three ways – we’re investing in the infrastructure of the UK; by looking constantly at how we can improve connectivity, such as 5G; and how we can make the UK the safest place in the world to do business and combat cyber threats.

“To ensure fibre is available across all of the UK we are mobilising projects to accelerate investment. Our forthcoming challenge fund – which we will be announcing in November – will support stimulation of this investment. We need to focus on future demand, we need to start building full fibre networks to stay ahead of the curve. We will aggregate demand through public bodies and SMEs – that’s a big focus for us.”

The fund will be made up of money from £740 million fund announced by the UK government in March, and will act as the mechanism for local bodies to access this money to facilitate fibre deployments. No other details were shared.

It forms part of the UK government’s plans to boost connectivity in the country from a just 2.8% of homes having access to fibre to the home services, to a target of 30% of premises in the next five or six years. The UK performs better when it comes to superfast broadband connectivity - 94% of homes and workplaces have access to superfast broadband, with this set to hit 95% by year end, 97% in 18-24 months, and universal coverage by 2020, Priest said.

“We believe the digital economy through enhancing business processes will drive a big uplift in productivity rates,” he added. “This is an exciting time for the investment in fibre. Ofcom and BT have agreed on a legal separation of Openreach and we also have alternative network providers who are driving fibre investment.”

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