UK government pushes back full fibre coverage target to 2030

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The UK government has watered down its broadband targets yet again, promising to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband coverage five years later than originally promised.

The Conservative manifesto ahead of the 2019 General Election promised nationwide fibre to the premise (FTTP) coverage by 2025 but the government has since backtracked. The revised target is 85%, with the government also backing down on its commitment to using full fibre.

Meanwhile, just £1.2 billion of £5 billion in promised funding will be delivered during this Parliament. 

Uk gigabit broadband

The new official target is nationwide coverage by 2030 and was disclosed in the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ whitepaper. This document that outlines how the government plans to make the country more equal and narrow the gap between rich and poor.

Connectivity is seen as vital in achieving this ambition as it will open up a range of social, economic, and educational possibilities to more parts of the country as society becomes more digitised. 

Openreach plans to reach 25 million homes and businesses with full fibre by 2026, while there several ‘altnets’ like CityFibre and Hyperoptic are building FTTP networks. 

Meanwhile, all 15.5 million properties connected to the Virgin Media cable network can already receive 1Gbps and the company has plans to upgrade this footprint to fill fibre. Reports suggest that its parent companies could go even further as part of a new joint-venture.

The government’s Project Gigabit will attempt to cover hard-to-reach areas that aren’t covered by commercial rollouts, but the whitepaper did not provide any concrete details on any new initiatives. 

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently expressed concern that any goal of ‘full coverage’ by 2030 would be missed because there were no specific provisions for rural locations. 

Furthermore, MPs fear the government is too reliant on the private sector to achieve its goals – allegations that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) denies.

The government’s document also promises nationwide 4G coverage by the same date, citing the pre-existing Shared Rural Network (SRN), and 5G coverage for the majority of the population. EE has already promised to deliver 5G to 90% of the UK’s geographic area by 2028 and it is unclear what further government support will be offered to enhance that figure.  

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.