Wales ‘high-speed’ broadband network rollout gets go-ahead

By Sooraj Shah
22 Jan 2013 View Comments
Green light at a traffic light

Work on the Welsh government's Superfast Cymru programme is under way, the Welsh business minister Edwina Hart has announced.

The project looks to deliver high-speed and "world class" broadband access to 96 per cent of Welsh homes and businesses by 2015.

Further reading

The fibre broadband rollout will start in 14 authorities between 2013 and 2014. They are: Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea and Vale of Glamorgan.
Work in all other unitary authorities will begin throughout 2014 and 2015.

In a statement to assembly members, Hart said that the government's programme partner BT will follow its detailed preparatory work with the rollout of the scheme.

"BT had already made considerable progress to prepare for the programme, including engagement with planning and highways authorities across Wales. A rollout plan has been prepared, which takes into account the local demographics and cartography of Wales, together with the Welsh government's economic priorities, including the enterprise zones and the Powys local growth zone," she said.

"State aid approval has now been granted by the UK government, allowing us to complete the Major Project Notification process to secure European Regional Development Fund structural funding worth £80million. Our project partner BT has now also officially started work on the roll-out of the programme," she added.

The government said that the new services will offer broadband with up to 80Mbit/s downstream speeds, with "ultra-fast broadband" providing even faster speeds if businesses require them.

This means that the majority of the rollout comprises fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) as opposed to fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), which will be available on-demand as an "ultra-fast" service. FTTC uses fibre optic cables from the telephone exchange to the street cabinets but then connects to a standard phone line to provide broadband.

Many believe that this is not the type of broadband that the UK needs in order for the economy to flourish with new jobs, services and innovation.

The director general of the non-profit organisation FTTH Council Europe recently told Computing that operators like BT misuse the term "fibre" in selling its products, and slammed BT for continuing to insist that FTTC is a good enough product for the majority of its customers.

But the programme will promote economic growth and sustainable jobs in Wales, according to Hart.

"It will ensure we are at the forefront of the global digital economy and help to champion Wales as a great place to live, work, invest and visit," she said.

The news follows the announcement last week that the Welsh government would invest £39m into faster broadband services for schools.

The investment comes from a new "Learning in Digital Wales Grant" that aims to help students to access better quality broadband services.

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