As a director for Openreach with responsibility for rolling-out superfast broadband across Wales, Ed Hunt takes a look at how the project is going and what we can expect next.
Fibre broadband has been in the news a lot lately and it’s no surprise when you consider the reliance society has placed on it and how routine it is to do pretty much anything on demand.
According to independent analysts, more than 91 per cent of properties in Wales have access to superfast broadband today. That’s better than Germany. This fact is often forgotten when criticism, selective use of data and misleading statements attract the headlines.
Before the end of 2017, tens of thousands of additional homes and businesses will benefit from access to superfast broadband. A large number of these properties will receive full fibre. This means a fibre connection all the way to your home or business, bringing with it access to ultrafast broadband speeds faster than parts of London or Manchester.Ultrafast speeds are also becoming available via G.fast technology, which is being piloted in many parts of the UK, including both Swansea and Cardiff.
There will, of course, be a minority of properties across Wales which won’t be able to benefit from fibre by the end of 2017 and for those there are options.
The Welsh Government has £80m to invest in more coverage and expects to go to market to seek a partner later this year. It also has one of the most generous voucher schemes in the UK where up to £800 is available for homes and businesses which require superfast speeds from a list of approved suppliers and up to £10,000 available for businesses that need ultrafast speeds. Openreach will also work with communities wishing to fund their own fibre solution via our Community Fibre Partnerships.
Other technologies and innovations might also offer a solution for some remote locations. Strides are being taken to make 4G mobile widely available across Wales, while Openreach is developing new technology, such as Long Reach VDSL.
You don’t often hear that Wales has higher coverage levels than the other devolved nations, but that is a fact. We realise that there’s more to do and we share the desire to build on the UK’s position as a leading digital nation, and to make decent broadband speeds available to the households and businesses that can’t order a superfast service today. To that end, BT has made a voluntary offer to deliver the Government’s goal for universal broadband access at minimum speeds of 10Mbps.
I know what it feels like not to have superfast broadband.
Until last year, I lived on less than 1Mb broadband download speeds. While it allowed me to work, I couldn’t do much else and it was frustrating. I supplemented my broadband with my 4G mobile and my community were talking about fundraising to get Openreach fibre broadband before it came along thanks to the Superfast Cymru programme.
Wales is an incredibly beautiful part of the world – with stunning mountains and lakes. But this stunning scenery can come at a cost. Investing to deliver broadband to the more rural parts of Wales is an expensive business and very difficult to deliver.
While some communication providers choose to focus only on the more urban parts of Wales due to a simple return on investment equation, there is one company willing to go much further.
As we now move from summer to autumn keep an eye out for my colleagues in their Openreach vans. They’ll be everywhere, working at full pace to bring high speed broadband to even more communities across Wales.