UK government finally gets the ball rolling on £200 million fibre scheme

A mere six months after the UK government announced a £200 million fibre roll-out initiative, one 20th of the budget is being spent.

In the customary way the announcement is heavy on utopian hyperbole and self-congratulation but light on substance. This first stage of the project announced in the spring budget will consist of chucking £10 million at six pilot schemes.

They are expected to ‘test innovative ways of connecting offices and public sector buildings with the next generation of broadband – full fibre networks that run fibre connections straight to the doors of customers’ homes or businesses,’ according to the announcement. Putting that into telecoms-speak, this seems to be more about FTTB than FTTH, but it’s a start.

Here’s where the trials will take place: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. Credulous reporting in mainstream media is generally supporting the utopian government line that promising ‘up to’ 1 Gbps will change everything and that these trials prove the promised land is within touching distance.

“For our economy to thrive, it is vital we make smart investments to ensure our digital infrastructure is world class and fit for the future,” said Andrew Jones MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. Full fibre connections are the gold standard and we are proud to announce today the next step to get Britain better connected.”

We want to see more commercial investment in the gold standard connectivity that full fibre provides, and these innovative pilots will help create the right environment for this to happen,” said Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital. “To keep Britain as the digital world leader that it is, we need to have the right infrastructure in place to allow us to keep up with the rapid advances in technology now and in the future.”

The hope, as ever, is that a bit of public money will catalyse a frenzy of private investment as the penny drops for previously cautious telcos. The duration of the trials that started on 3 September is not stated but the remaining £190 million pledged isn’t expected to be spent for three years, by which time 1 Gbps over mobile broadband could be a reality for some.

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