As of the summer of 2018, over 70,000 locations across Wales have been connected to Gigabit broadband. This is part of a £ 1bn funding commitment from the UK government by the end of 2021, with a further £ 5bn for the hardest to reach areas soon.
This means that in addition to commercial investments, gigabit-enabled broadband is now available to more than 7.5 million premises across the UK compared to around 1.4 million premises two years ago.
Almost 1,000 vouchers have been issued to subsidize the cost of building faster, gigabit-enabled broadband infrastructure for homes and businesses in Wales.
The numbers come out as the UK government urges businesses and residents of rural towns and villages to apply immediately for more than £ 70 million to get them off the digital slow lane.
UK Government Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman urges people today to take advantage of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Program, which will run until March next year, which aims to future proof people's internet connections for a generation.
The program is aimed at rural, hard-to-reach areas that are unlikely to be linked soon by the commercial introduction of gigabit networks.
Minister Warman is also launching a new task force today, led by consumer and business groups including Which, the Association of British Industries (CBI) and the Association of Small Businesses (FSB), to monitor the use of gigabit Internet connections by consumers to advance.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:
"It's fantastic to see so many people have access to gigabit-speed broadband. This is thanks to our investment, along with the great work of the industry.
“Today, I urge people in rural communities on the digital slow lane to seek immediate financial aid so that they can take advantage of better connectivity – from making work easier to connecting with family and friends.
"I'm also starting a new initiative with business and consumer champions to make more people aware of the benefits of better, faster broadband."
Welsh Secretary of State Simon Hart said:
“It's great to see that thanks to the UK government's commitment to digital connectivity, another 70,000 locations in Wales are now connected to gigabit broadband.
"I urge the people of Wales to take advantage of the UK government's fantastic gigabit voucher scheme to ensure that people and businesses in Wales have the connectivity they need to thrive in the digital age."
Gigabit broadband transmits speeds of a thousand megabits per second. Not only do these connections support the use of smarter devices like smart heating systems and internet-connected refrigerators, but they also allow users to download HD movies in seconds and stream TV and game content in 4K image quality on multiple devices at the same time.
The speeds will pave the way for new and unexpected social benefits alongside jobs and economic growth and will revolutionize rural communities by giving people the freedom to live and work more flexibly.
To date, the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme has issued more than 3,500 vouchers to rural homes and businesses in Somerset, nearly 2,000 in Cumbria, and over a thousand in Kent, Lancashire, Hampshire, West Yorkshire and Surrey.
The vouchers are worth up to £ 1,500 for rural homes and up to £ 3,500 for rural small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) when they come together as a collective of two or more properties.
Rocio Concha, Director of Advocacy at Which? Said:
“It is really important that people across the UK, including those who are at risk or who are in hard-to-reach places, have good quality broadband connections that meet their needs for entertainment and close-to-loved ones as well Able to be able to work, business and bank.
“By bringing together industry, regulator, government, and groups representing both consumers and businesses, this new advisory group can make recommendations on how to ensure that everyone can use the faster, more reliable internet connections on wheels.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the FSB, said:
“Small businesses need reliable, fast and future-proof connectivity in order to work safely. Gigabit-enabled broadband enables companies to easily connect with customers at home and abroad, find new ways to use technology to improve their performance, and do more online business than ever before.
“This year has forced small businesses to revamp their business models, and digital connectivity has proven to be a lifeline during that time. However, many struggle with poor internet connections and would be better off with a gradual change in connectivity.
“So this task force couldn't have come at a more urgent time. FSB is excited to work with the government, consumer and business representatives to accelerate the adoption of Gigabit Broadband. "
Felicity Burch, CBI Director for Digital and Innovation, said:
“Gigabit for digital connectivity is more important than ever as the UK responds to the Covid crisis. It's great to be part of the new government advisory group to make sure the business view is heard. Bringing in expertise from across the board will encourage more households and businesses to use broadband faster and more reliably, and put technology and innovation at the heart of our economic recovery. "
Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG)
Gigabit broadband is currently available to approximately 26 percent of residential and commercial space across the UK. However, it is estimated that only 30 percent of the premises use these services where they are available.
The new Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) has been established to conduct a strategic review to increase adoption as Gigabit connections between consumers and businesses become more widely available.
It is being led by Which ?, the FSB and the CBI with members like Ofcom and industry representatives to encourage more consumers to embrace this new technology and take advantage of the benefits it will bring.
It will specifically examine increasing enterprise adoption by promoting the benefits of gigabit broadband to businesses that already have it and the role businesses can play in motivating their employees to upgrade.