UK government earmarks another £7 million for rural connectivity

Transmitter towers on a hill

Additional funds have been made available to see which broadband techs might help the UK plug lingering connectivity gaps.

As part of a broader package to stimulate rural economic growth, the government on Tuesday announced that it will spend £7 million to trial satellite, fixed wireless access (FWA), and fixed-line solutions in an effort to provide reliable broadband to agricultural and rural tourism businesses. This is in addition to the £8 million that the government earmarked in April for providing satellite broadband connectivity to remote communities.

“The countryside makes up over 90 percent of the UK’s land mass, it is home to millions of people, and contributes over £250 billion to our economy in England alone. Rural areas are rich in human and natural potential with strong communities and entrepreneurial businesses,” said Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, in a statement.

“This government is committed to making sure that the needs of people and businesses in rural areas are at the heart of policymaking. We want to go further in unleashing that potential and support people in rural areas to build the sustainable future they want to see,” she said.

Indeed, due to the economics of network deployment, there remains a small but noticeable difference between urban and rural areas when it comes to broadband speed and availability.

According to Ofcom’s latest stats, in January there were still 68,000 premises that couldn’t get access to what the telco regulator calls a ‘decent’ broadband service, which is one that offers 10 Mbps downlink and 1 Mbps uplink throughput. At the time of the stats’ publication last month, 54,000 of these premises were not expected to be covered by the rollout of publicly-funded broadband schemes within the next 12 months.

It is also worth remembering that what constitutes ‘decent’ broadband depends on the sort of services it can support. As these services become more advanced – and therefore data intensive – 10  Mbps broadband is becoming less ‘decent’ with each passing day.

In terms of geographic mobile coverage, notspots account for around 8% of the UK landmass. However, that increases in the more rural and remote of the home nations: in Wales and Scotland, it jumps to 9% and 17% respectively.

“Rural communities are the backbone of the UK, and today’s announcements ensure they will continue to receive the support and attention they deserve, by bringing together resources from across government. They already make a sizeable contribution to our economy, but there’s an even greater potential waiting to be unlocked,” said Chloe Smith, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology. “The new £7 million fund announced in today’s rural action plan will explore how we can boost connectivity even further for farmers and rural businesses in trial areas, through a combination of satellite, wireless, and fixed-line solutions.”

In a separate announcement, the government has also announced the winners of this year’s Transport Research and Innovation Grant (TRIG) programme. This year it awarded £1.96 million to support tech companies focusing on innovative transport-related solutions.

A total of 67 projects received grants. Those singled out in a press release from the Department for Transport include Makesense Technology, which has developed an augmented reality app pitched at the visually impaired that offers walking routes around railway stations. Another company, Iona Logistics received a grant to help it explore the potential of its rural drone delivery service. Meanwhile, the Port of Tyne is exploring the viability of remote-controlled, and in some cases fully automated, heavy-duty robots to replace heavy goods vehicles.

Since its launch in 2014, TRIG has made £12 million available to nearly 300 projects.

“The government wants the UK to be a world leader in the future of transport and, through the TRIG programme, the Department for Transport is supporting innovators and businesses to decarbonise and improve transport while growing the economy and supporting jobs across the UK,” said Transport and Decarbonisation Minister Jesse Norman.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Biobob 06/06/2023 @ 5:13 pm

    The main problem with the countryside is when openreach make a mistake there is no way to fix it. BT finally added fttp to my rural area but left out just one house (mine) now there is absolutely nothing that they will do. There is no point having these other services when I cannot even get connected to a fibre network a few hundred metres away

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