The Welsh government is set to announce plans to expand existing ‘superfast broadband’ network coverage to the whole country.
Currently Wales is falling just short of full fibre coverage with roughly 97% of the country connected but only 93-94% are achieving the “Superfast” speeds of 30Mbps+. The project has been aided primarily through £225m of investment via a collaboration between BT Openreach and Superfast Cymru.
Wales is currently just behind the 95% coverage target for “superfast” connectivity. Many have blamed Openreach for failing to deliver on this target, with the company having run into some problems trying to connect the last few per-cents of the more rural and remote locations across the country.
The Welsh government announced on Wednesday their new plans for a fully connected Wales. Chief Whip Julie James AM, told the BBC:
“The Superfast Cymru scheme has been hugely successful for those people who have received [superfast broadband] from it. There are an enormous number of people across Wales, and it’s in the nature of the beast that we’re not inundated by letters from people who are grateful to have received it.…I intend to carry out a procurement exercise shortly, with a view to the new project starting in spring this year.”
Current funding for the last leg of the project sits at around £80m which, when you factor in the 98,145 properties that are still to be connected, equals around £816 per premises. Whether or not the allotted funding will be enough remains to be seen and it is possible that they may need some additional private investment to achieve their goal. Remote areas with little or no network infrastructure are disproportionately more expensive to reach so only time will tell if this has been factored in to the £80m.
If the money does come up short, then there is a possibility that the Welsh Government may have to adopt a more cost-effective option such as offering satellite internet to reach the more far flung communities. This could spell good news for some of alternative network providers but at the moment it’s uncertain exactly which direction the Welsh Government will take if the funding isn’t enough.