Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & and Sport (DCMS) is delivering broadband networks to the nation
Building Digital UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is delivering broadband networks to the nation.
Most of the UK can now get fast, reliable broadband and the government has a range of programmes that could help to increase speeds and access for homes and businesses.
If you are a resident you could have access to a Superfast scheme in your area. You may also be eligible for a voucher to support the cost of gigabit-capable broadband as part of a group scheme.
If you are a community you may be able to improve your broadband connectivity by creating group schemes with broadband suppliers and using vouchers to support the cost of installation. Read our guide to community-led broadband projects.
If you run a small to medium-sized business (SME) you may be eligible for a voucher to support the cost of gigabit-capable broadband.
If you don’t have access to commercial broadband that is able to deliver a ‘decent broadband service’ (10Mbps download or 1Mbps upload), you may be eligible to request a connection under the Broadband Universal Service Obligation from a provider designated by Ofcom.
Find out how to apply for fast broadband
What we’re currently doing:
Investment to provide superfast broadband coverage to as many premises as possible beyond the 95% level achieved in December 2017
Piloting a way to provide gigabit-capable broadband to the hard-to-reach places in the UK through its Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme that is currently funded through to March 2021
Stimulating private investment in gigabit-capable connections through its UK Fibre programme, currently funded through to March 2021
12 September 2020
A quarter of a million rural homes and businesses across England have been given access to more financial help to get top-of-the-range broadband speeds.
3 September 2020
The next step in the Prime Minister’s infrastructure revolution has been completed to open up more of the nation’s radio waves to improve rural mobile coverage and deliver the revolutionary new benefits of 5G technology.
8 August 2020
Half a million premises now have access to gigabit connectivity thanks to government investment.
24 June 2020
More than 50,000 rural Welsh homes and businesses could be eligible to have their broadband upgraded, thanks to a new collaboration between the UK and Welsh governments.
12 June 2020
The move seeks to open up access for broadband network operators to house their equipment on ‘passive’ infrastructure owned and used by other telecoms companies.
The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review - setting the UK’s broadband targets
In July 2018 the Government published The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review that set clear, ambitious targets for the availability of full fibre and 5G networks.
The aim is to see 15 million premises connected to full fibre by 2025, with coverage across all parts of the country by 2033 and that the majority of the population will have 5G coverage by 2027.The review addressed key questions about the evolution of the UK’s digital infrastructure such as the convergence between fixed and mobile technologies, and the transition from copper to full fibre (gigabit-capable) networks.
The review also identified that approximately 10% of UK premises, largely in rural and remote locations, would be unlikely to receive gigabit-capable connections by 2033.
Why full fibre?
Full fibre is optic fibre cable connected all the way to your premises, not just the nearest green cabinet, that is capable of delivering gigabit-capable broadband speed. Fibre optic cable is the most reliable way of delivering high speed broadband connectivity.
A gigabit is the same as 1,000 megabits - so it’s a big leap forward in connection speeds that will benefit users into the future, whether at home or work.
Gigabit-capable means that the connection can handle speeds of 1,000 Megabits per second but users only sign up to speeds they can afford. As demand increases, users can choose the option to pay for more speed as required.
An ‘Outside-In’ approach was proposed in the review to ensure that gigabit-capable broadband to premises in the final 10% can be delivered along with the rest of the UK. Since then, the scope of this scheme for the hardest-to-reach premises has increased from the final 10% to 20%.
In May 2019, the Chancellor announced a £5 billion commitment to fund gigabit-capable deployment in the hardest to reach 20% through the ‘Outside-In’ approach.
Current fixed broadband infrastructure projects
Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme
In March 2018 the Local Full Fibre Network programme (now UK Fibre) launched a £67 million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.
Gigabit broadband vouchers for the first wave of the scheme were used by small businesses and the local communities around them to contribute to the installation cost of faster connections using gigabit-capable infrastructure. Applications for this part of the scheme are now closed.
The second wave, which launched in May 2019 to support connections in rural areas as part of the £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme, remains open for new applications until 31 March 2021 (or until the funding runs out).
The scheme is accessible through broadband service providers who have registered to provide connections through the scheme.
To benefit from the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme:
check whether your home, business or community is eligible for a voucher - details are on the website
check whether there are registered suppliers in your area using the postcode search on the website. You can also talk to your existing supplier to see if they are participating in the scheme, or to encourage them to register.
Vouchers are issued to the supplier and can only be used to offset the cost of installing a gigabit-capable broadband connection to your premises.
For full details about whether you are eligible for a voucher and to connect you to a full fibre broadband supplier, go to: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk.
Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme
As a result of The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, the Chancellor announced a £5 billion commitment to fund gigabit capable broadband for the 20% of UK premises that would be unlikely to receive commercial access to gigabit capable broadband. The Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme began on 19 May 2019 and will run until the end of March 2021.
If you are a Local Authority or a public sector organisation and interested in expressing an interest to become a future strategic partner for the programme:
read the key programme information
complete the Hub Site Submission sheet
send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for the first tranche of submissions was 31 October 2019 with a further tranche opening soon.
The RGC programme also features a rural variant of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, where community and small to medium sized businesses can aggregate vouchers together in group schemes to fund the cost of gigabit-capable broadband to their community.
For full details of the rural voucher scheme visit the Gigabit Voucher website.
Superfast Broadband Programme
The government has ensured superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more) coverage for over 96% of UK premises. The Superfast programme is committed to run until 2026.
You can check whether superfast broadband is available in your area using the superfast broadband postcode checker.
More information on the government’s approach to delivering superfast broadband is available in the UK Next Generation Network Infrastructure Deployment Plan.
Information and take-up data on all procurements on the Superfast Broadband Programme can be found in the table of local broadband projects spreadsheet. The spreadsheet also contains links to gainshare consultations published by local broadband projects.
An independent report is available in our Evaluation of the Economic Impact and Public Value of the Superfast Broadband Programme. This is a report by Ipsos Mori for DCMS evaluating the economic impacts and public value of the Superfast Broadband Programme. Ipsos MORI are currently conducting a survey of businesses on behalf of DCMS. The survey aims to understand more about how businesses use the internet and how this is changing. The findings from the survey will form part of the evidence for evaluating the Superfast Broadband Programme, as well as informing government policy more generally.
Further information on State aid is explained on the State Aid Advice web pages.
Local Full Fibre Networks Programme
The Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme was designed to stimulate commercial investment in full fibre networks in both rural and urban locations across the whole of the UK funded by the National Productivity Investment Fund.
Since 2017 LFFN has initiated three waves of a capital grant programme - called the Challenge Fund - funding public connectivity projects in gigabit-capable connections. Concurrently the programme set up the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme and a project on rail connectivity run jointly with the 5G.
The BDUK team continues to provide support and guidance to the local bodies leading the Wave 2 and Wave 3 projects to ensure successful delivery by 2021.
Any queries regarding the fund should be directed to LFFN@culture.gov.uk.
The Trans-Pennine Initiative (TPI) has delivered gigabit-capable infrastructure along the existing rail route between Manchester and York.
The initiative tests the viability of using the rail corridor to deploy high capacity, cost effective fibre, aiming to stimulate commercial extension of the fibre footprint to line-side businesses and communities along the route.
The project offers a range of connectivity services to telecoms operators and internet service providers seeking to deliver gigabit-capable connectivity to local communities along the route. It also offers connections at data centres in Manchester and Leeds, or breakout from initial points of presence along the route.
For more information about the initiative, please visit Network Rail.
Current mobile infrastructure projects
Shared Rural Network
The Shared Rural Network (SRN) is part of the UK Mobile Programme and will see the government and Vodafone, O2, Three and EE jointly invest over £1 billion to increase 4G mobile coverage throughout the United Kingdom to 95% geographic coverage by the end of 2025. It is underpinned by a legally binding coverage commitment from each operator to have reached at least 90%, assessed in 2026.
The £532 million investment by mobile network operators is supported with more than £500 million of government funding to eliminate ‘total not-spots’: hard-to-reach areas where there is currently no coverage from any operator. This will provide new digital infrastructure in total not spot areas not commercially viable for the operators. The Shared Rural Network will also provide coverage to 280,000 premises and 16,000km of roads across the UK.
The network will lead to increases in coverage in some areas by more than a third, with the biggest coverage improvements in rural parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
It means all four mobile network operators will deliver 95% combined coverage across the whole of the UK by the end of 2025 and consumers can rely on their own provider’s network wherever they are.
For more information go to the Shared Rural Network website.
700MHz Clearance Programme
The 700MHz clearance programme is a government funded programme to clear airwaves in the 700MHz spectrum band, currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and PMSE (Programme Makers and Special Events) services. Once cleared, the airwaves will be available for future mobile broadband services. The changes will be rolled out across different regions nationally and the programme is due to be complete by the summer of 2020.
Update: The 700MHz Clearance programme was paused in March due to the COVID-19 risk. As of 16 July 2020, work will now resume and the last two clearance events will take place on 12 and 19 August 2020.
Programmes closed to new applicants
Broadband competition for event venues – 2019
As part of the Tourism Sector Deal and the UK Government’s International Business Events Action Plan which were both published on 28 June 2019, DCMS launched a £250,000 scheme to improve broadband connectivity in event venues, enabling them to receive full fibre access. Applications closed on 27 September 2019.
Challenge Fund – 2017-2021
As part of the Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund, the £190 million Challenge Fund was launched in November 2017 to deploy gigabit-capable connectivity to public sites through public sector anchor tenancy, public sector asset reuse or public sector building upgrade delivery methods. Over three waves of funding, the Challenge Fund helped inform future programmes through exploration of new potential delivery methods to further increase the commercial deployment of full fibre.
Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme – 2013-2015
The Government’s Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme ran from December 2013 until October 2015. Over 50,000 vouchers for superfast broadband connections were issued to SMEs during the scheme, with 37,000 vouchers issued since April 2015 across 50 UK cities.
Mobile Infrastructure Project – 2011-2016
The government Mobile Infrastructure Project supported investment in mobile infrastructure to improve coverage for voice calls and text messages for the final 0.3-0.4% of UK premises that were unable to receive a service. A detailed review of the Mobile Infrastructure Project is available in our Impacts and Benefits Report.
Market Test Pilots – 2015
The government also supported seven market test pilots to gain a greater understanding of the challenges in rolling out superfast broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas of the UK.
European Funding for Broadband
BDUK acts as the Broadband Competence Office to provide assistance with European funding for broadband projects. This includes the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). These funds are administered by other government departments but BDUK can provide support to help.
Job opportunities in BDUK
Join BDUK to be a part of the connected future of the UK in any of the new roles that we’ll be featuring on our job opportunities page over the next few months.
Broadband State Aid Advice is guidance covering plans to improve the UK’s broadband network, with emphasis on making high-speed broadband available in rural areas.
The Digital Connectivity Portal provides guidance for local authorities and network providers on improving connectivity in local areas.
Community-led broadband schemes has information about establishing community broadband solutions and is illustrated by case studies of different community schemes across the UK.