Plans for gigabit broadband by 2025 to be scrutinised

6 March 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee asking whether Government's ambitions to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025 are realistic.

The Committee is looking to assess the challenges facing the roll-out and what measures may need to be introduced to achieve it.

It follows a pledge by Boris Johnson during his Conservative Party leadership campaign in mid-2019 to deliver nationwide gigabit coverage by 2025 instead of 2033.

Interested parties will have until 2 April to submit evidence to the Committee and then the evidence will be scrutinised by members.

1gb broadband

Reality check

In the call for evidence, the Committee emphasises the importance of working out whether the Government's aims are realistic and what need to happen to fulfil them.

The terms of reference include:

  • What regulatory, financial, technical and other measures will be needed to achieve nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025.
  • Challenges to the roll-out of both gigabit-capable broadband and 5G, including whether legislative, regulatory and spending plans address them.
  • The Government's 'outside in' approach and whether it can successfully address the difficulties while still delivering value for money.
  • What the current take-up of broadband and mobile services suggests about attitudes towards connectivity and what needs to be learnt from these attitudes.
  • What will happen to communities whose connectivity doesn't keep pace and how does this link with other policy areas.
  • How effectively the different stakeholders including UK and devolved governments, Ofcom, local authorities and the wider industry work together and how these relationships could be improved.

So, the Committee is essentially looking for concrete responses to accompany the vague promises made by the Prime Minister and others, checking whether the roll-out of gigabit broadband is on track.

Status of gigabit broadband

The most recent research suggests 14% of the UK can access gigabit-capable broadband, which amounts to around 4.3 million premises. Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) accounts for 3.7 million of those connections.

During Theresa May's time as Prime Minister, the goal was to achieve full nationwide coverage of full-fibre by 2033 with 15 million premises connected by 2025.

Boris Johnson suggested during the Conservative leadership campaign that this roll-out could be speeded up to enable nationwide coverage by 2025 instead. The pledge was subsequently watered down in the first Queen's Speech following his election as leader, although it is still very much a Government ambition.

The inquiry announced by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is one strand of a conversation that's taking place across the industry, with regulator Ofcom currently consulting on proposals to improve competition and investment in full fibre broadband.

Why gigabit broadband?

Back in 2017, as the roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband began in earnest, we asked why customers might opt for 1Gb connections.

In households where multiple devices are used for more intensive tasks such as downloading HD videos and streaming games, faster download speeds can help, but so too do faster upload speeds which are often symmetrical with download speeds on gigabit-capable connections.

Availability doesn't necessarily mean customers will take gigabit-capable broadband, however, and this is likely to be one of the areas the Committee hears a lot about during its inquiry.

For example, Virgin Media Gig1, coming soon to the West Midlands and hoping to reach 15 million properties by the end of 2021, is priced from £62 per month. Their most expensive ultrafast standalone package with average speeds of 362Mbps is currently £43 per month.

Customers may legitimately wonder whether the speeds are worth the price tag, and it's also worth using your postcode to compare broadband packages and see what's actually available in your area before you start planning an upgrade.


Which broadband deals are available in your area?

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