The Welsh government has outlined the next steps in its campaign to bring fast, reliable broadband to the remaining premises in Wales under the Superfast Cymru programme.
The programme, which began in 2013, has resulted in nine out of 10 premises being able to access ‘superfast’ broadband, compared with around half when the programme began. Leader of the house with responsibility for digital, Julie James, said that almost 733,000 premises in Wales have been provided with access to fast fibre broadband.
As part of the next phase of the programme, a grant agreement has been signed with BT to provide, via Openreach, fibre broadband access to almost 16,000 premises across North Wales, the South West and the Valleys by March 2021, using around £13 million in Welsh Government and EU funding.
James commented: ‘The broadband market in Wales has seen a rapid change over the last five years. Superfast Cymru has transformed the digital landscape of Wales with the vast majority of premises across the country able to access superfast broadband. But there is more to do to reach the remaining premises. Given the scale of the task in providing fast reliable broadband to those premises currently unable to access it we are going to need a range of interventions in future. This will include publicly funded roll-outs as announced, our ABC and ultrafast voucher schemes and support for community projects through our voucher schemes. For many a community-based scheme is going to be the best route to fast broadband connectivity.’
Speaking about Openreach winning the contract for work, Kim Mears, managing director for strategic infrastructure development, said: ‘We’re delighted to be partnering with the Welsh government once again on the continued roll out of fibre broadband across Wales. This is the next step in the process of making decent broadband available for all across Wales on an open network with a choice of providers.’
Evaluation of tenders for the area covering East Wales is ongoing and a further announcement will be made once that work is complete.
Earlier this year, homes in Cardiff and Liverpool were connected to fibre broadband by Openreach, under phase one of its ‘fibre first’ programme (see Ultrafast broadband rollout in Cardiff and Liverpool almost complete).