Full speed ahead as push for faster web service clears delay
A delayed £94 million project to increase broadband speeds for businesses and residents across Devon and Somerset within the next four years is to go ahead.
Connecting Devon and Somerset has agreed a deal with BT which aims to deliver high-speed fibre broadband to around 90 per cent of premises by the end of 2016 and to ensure a minimum of 2Mbps broadband speeds for all – making the South West one of the best connected areas in the UK.
The contract was subject to delays after BT admitted to some 'significant' difficulties.
It was originally due to be signed on January 21.
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Surveying work on the project will start immediately and the first locations to be upgraded are due to be announced shortly.
The deal is expected to provide a big boost to the local economy, with estimates of up to £750 million worth of additional goods and services being created in the next seven years. In addition the councils hope that the new system will attract many new businesses and investors to the South West.
BT is ploughing £41 million into the project as part of a public sector investment which includes £10 million each from Devon and Somerset County Councils. The remainder of the funding will be from central government with a £32 million investment from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) alongside contributions from other public sector partners.
Average speeds are currently around 9 Mbps in Devon and around 8Mbps in Somerset while approximately 14 per cent of premises across the two counties receive less than 2Mbps. This could rise to 80Mbps.
BT admit that the combination of rural, urban and coastal geographies will offer various engineering challenges, but the most predominant technology will be fibre optic broadband.
Most of the programme area will receive Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), where the fibre runs from the telephone exchange as far as the nearest BT street cabinet. It can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business and which can deliver the top current download speed of 330Mbps, will also be available in certain areas. In addition BT aims to make FTTP technology commercially available on demand in any area where fibre broadband has been deployed, should local businesses want the ultra-fast speeds it offers.
Openreach will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis.
With fibre broadband, large video and data files can be sent and received almost instantly and hi-resolution photos posted online in seconds.
BT is already in the process of rolling out fibre broadband to homes and businesses in some areas of Devon and Somerset as part of its commercial plan to reach around two-thirds of UK premises.