The Superfast Worcestershire Partnership is working to bring superfast broadband connectivity to 97% of homes and businesses in Worcestershire by Summer 2021. Whilst great progress has already been made and superfast speeds are available to over 95% of Worcestershire premises, areas without access to superfast speeds still remain.
For those in the remaining 3%, there are a number of funding schemes available, aimed at supporting communities and businesses.
Summary of the schemes:
- The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme - Businesses can claim up to £2,500 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme as part of a group project which also includes businesses, and can claim for a voucher of up to a value of £500.
- The Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme - Rural premises with broadband speeds of less than 30 Mbps can use vouchers worth up to £3500 for each SME and up to £1500 per residential premises to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections.
- Universal Service Obligation (USO) - The UK Government is introducing USO for broadband to ensure that the UK has world-class digital connectivity and inclusion by 2020.
- Other Projects & future funding including Community Pathfinder Project with Airband, more details on potential future funding, supporting commercial infrastructure providers and mobile operators in Worcestershire
- 5G Testbed & Trials - in March 2018, Worcestershire 5G Consortium began their 12 month project to build and operate 5G Testbed sites in Worcester and Malvern. The Worcestershire trails focus on 'Advanced Manufacturing' and 'Security by Design' amongst other areas and fully testing the boundaries of the emerging networks' capabilities.
Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
Full fibre broadband connections offer the fastest and most reliable speeds available, and the government is committed to a vision of a full fibre Britain. As part of this commitment in March 2018 DCMS announced £67m Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
Gigabit vouchers can be used by small businesses and the local communities surrounding them to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection. Businesses can claim up to £2,500 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme as part of a group project which also includes businesses, and can claim for a voucher of up to a value of £500.
How to get involved in the scheme
If there are businesses and other residents in your area who want to install a gigabit capable connection you may be able to benefit from a voucher worth up to £2,500 as part of a group project led by a supplier.
You can approach a supplier in your area to see if there are any group projects you may be able to join. If there are no projects in your area, you may be able to join up with other residents and local businesses and approach a supplier directly.
The Superfast Worcestershire team would be really happy to support you and we'd love to keep in touch with you about your Community-led broadband scheme. We've been heavily involved with Worcestershire businesses and residents utilizing the Gigabit Voucher scheme and since it's launch in May 2018, we have supported many communities in securing over £1,000,000 worth of vouchers, with many more nearing contract signatures. If you're interested in utilising this funding, hurry - as of January 2020, there was just over £10million or the original pot remaining!
Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme
Following the success of the Gigabit Voucher scheme, the UK Government announced a new scheme in April 2019 called the Rural Gigabit Connectivity Scheme (RGC.)
As part of the Government's RGC programme, businesses and residents in some of the hardest to reach places in the UK are eligible for additional funding towards the installation costs of a gigabit-capable connection to their premises.
The key characteristics of the RGC voucher eligibility are:
- available in defined rural areas (by postcode in all parts of the UK)
- available to those with existing broadband speeds of less than 30Mbps (download)
- up to £3500 available for eligible SMEs (including self-employed) and up to £1500 for residents
- applications must include a minimum or 2 residential of SME premises (single connections are not eligible)
Whether you live or work in an area with little broadband service or are looking to upgrade to ultrafast speeds to future-proof your home or business, more information can be found here: gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/rural/
Here's how the process works:
- Contact our team on firstname.lastname@example.org to check if there is already a scheme underway in your area
- If not, use the Gigabit postcode checker to find a supplier in your area: gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/for-residents/suppliers/
- Contact your chosen supplier to confirm your eligibility (rural classification)
- Identify premises to be included in the project - you may wish to check your premises' status on our website #where-when There's a helpful guide to forming a community project here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-led-broadband-schemes/guidance#before-you-start-forming-a-community-group-and-deciding-on-the-best-solution
- Register with your chosen supplier
- Supplier provides a quote, group accepts and is given a build timescale
The Superfast Worcestershire team would be really happy to support you and we'd love to keep in touch with you about your Community-led broadband scheme. We've been heavily involved with Worcestershire businesses and residents utilizing the Rural Gigabit Connectivity scheme and are currently ranked in the top 15 Local Authority league table for voucher uptake!
Broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO)
The new USO is a UK-wide measure, intended to fill the gap left by the UK Government’s existing broadband roll-out programs, to deliver broadband connections to the hardest to reach premises in the UK. Ofcom reported that as of May 2017, 1.1 million premises (4%) in the UK would qualify for the USO.
At present around 95% of the UK (and Worcestershire) can already order a fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connection and by 2020 this is expected to reach around 98%, which means that the new USO will be primarily focused upon helping to cater for those in the final 2%; estimated to be somewhere around 300,000 to 500,000 premises nationwide in 2020.
The USO is being delivered by Ofcom, and we expect customers will be able to request a USO connection from March 2020. The USO will give UK households and businesses currently receiving less than 10Mbps download and not due to receive a service from a publicly-funded roll out programme, the right to request a decent broadband connection of at least 10Mbps (download) and 1Mbps (upload) up to the installation cost of £3400. Where costs are over £3400, consumers will be required to contribute the excess costs or do some of the work themselves.
For information can be found here: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/broadband-uso-need-to-know
Future funding & Community Pathfinder Project with Airband
- Future Funding: Worcestershire County Council is constantly exploring opportunities to provide access to improved broadband in all parts of Worcestershire. Current investigations include opportunities through DEFRA & Local Full Fibre Networks at DCMS. Please register to be kept up to date. Alternatively, How to obtain a better service when superfast broadband isn't available to you guide is also available describing currently available solutions.
- Community Pathfinder Project with Airband: Alongside the Superfast Worcestershire Partnership with BT, Worcestershire County Council identified additional funding for Pathfinder Community Projects in 2012/13. As a result, three communities were successful in their bids for funding from the County Council to provide access to faster Broadband in their areas. Click here for more details.
- 'Supporting Commercial operators in Worcestershire'– Worcestershire County Council continue to work with commercial operators to ensure Worcestershire is an appealing place to invest and operate.
- Working with mobile operators – Worcestershire County Council recognises the importance of mobile phone connectivity in and around the county, acknowledging that existing 2G, 3G and 4G services can be improved across the county; whether that be improving coverage or optimising the network when it is available. The County Council and Worcestershire LEP have worked with supplier AWTG to undertake a series of drive and static trials in the spring of 2017. Having understood the outcome of these trials we have engaged with the four major mobile network operators EE, 02, Three and Vodafone; working with them to understand and overcome challenges locally. These conversations have already delivered positive responses in the county, with optimisation taking place and new sites being investigated. All four operators continue positive engagement with us and we welcome their ongoing support. We aim to conduct further trails in Summer 2019, to review new developments and progress since 2017.
5G Testbed trials
Worcestershire was successful in its bid for Government funding to test and explore 5G connectivity, in order to revolutionise the way future business will operate both in the UK and globally.
The Worcestershire 5G Consortium is ompleting the country’s most comprehensive industrial 5G Testbed trial, with a team of 5G specialists and business experts pioneering the concept of ‘Industry 4.0’, aiming to revolutionary platform for local and national businesses to develop next-generation technology focused on improving the UK’s industrial productivity.
The consortium of partners includes local infrastructure providers, national network operators and research and development facilities. They are: Worcestershire County Council, 5GIC at University of Surrey, AWTG, Huawei, O2, BT, and Malvern Hills Science Park. Click here for more detail.