'From riding a bike to driving an F1 car': £5bn for broadband boost

A BT Openreach engineer working on telephone lines. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire.

A BT Openreach engineer working on telephone lines. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Broadband customers will see a difference akin to "going from riding a bike to driving an Formula One car" thanks to a £5bn package to improve connectivity speeds. 

Covering 640,000 premises, the rollout across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in June 2022 will see businesses and families alike offered gigabit broadband. 

One gigabit is the equivalent of 1,000 megabits, capable of downloading a high definition film in under a minute. 

The upgrade will make a huge difference to businesses like Cabins Unlimited which relies on mobile broadband due to lack of connectivity. 

The business, which turned over more than £2m in 2020, connects with customers and suppliers solely through this SIM-based wifi. 

However the Dereham-based business, which also has sites in Norwich, Downham Market and Lincolnshire, frequently sees signal drop out. 

Founder Rob Scott said: "It will make the world of difference, especially because we're so busy at the moment and I think we'll continue to be.

Rob Scott

Rob Scott of Cabins Unlimited - Credit: Rob Scott


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"Not only will it mean we don't see signal dropping out of calls and on online chats, but it also means we're not having conversations with customers where we only hear every other word and we sound like daleks to them. 

"I don't know if we've lost any business because of it but I know it's frustrating for customers. They don't know - they might not even care - that we have bad wifi, all they want is good service so it's frustrating when they don't get that. 

"That's all we want to give them so I think the biggest difference for my business will actually be my staff who get really stressed out when they can't give people the best service. It'll be a relief for them to go through their day without having to switch the router of twice and get back to everyone quickly."

Firms to install the wifi will be able to bid for contracts on the Project Gigabit scheme from spring, with “spades in the ground” in the first half of 2022, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

  • Q&A: What you need to know

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband which is in the process of providing full-fibre connectivity in Norfolk, explains what the policy really means for the public. 

County Broadband CEO Lloyd Felton says the roll-out of hyperfast broadband requires a "Herculean effort"

County Broadband CEO Lloyd Felton says the roll-out of hyperfast broadband requires a "Herculean effort" - Credit: Pagepix Ltd/Genesis PR

How much of a difference will people see as a result of gigabit broadband?

"The differences is huge. Fundamentally, it's the difference between riding a bicycle or driving a Formula One car," Mr Felton said.

"People should be able to take their broadband provision for granted. When you walk into a room and flick on a light switch it just turns on. You don't think about it."

"With gigabit connectivity that's what you get.

"The service is much more reliable, the speed is dependable and even at 7pm, when everybody is online, you've got something that is going to work as solidly as when you're the only person on the internet.

"It's an enormous difference."

County Broadband is building hyperfast broadband networks in rural south Norfolk and Breckland. Pict

County Broadband is building hyperfast broadband networks in rural south Norfolk and Breckland. Picture: Warren Page/County Broadband - Credit: Archant

How long will it take for us to benefit?

"Well, government targets will tell you that it's 2025. But I'm afraid the reality is for some it will be longer."

"But it won't be that many more years if we're able to do what we're planning to do.

"We're a company that is entirely focused on on the rural market. We only do small market towns and rural villages. We've demonstrated that's possible to do. So we've got a plan now to do approximately 300,000 premises over the next five to six years."

Mr Felton's firm work across the whole of East Anglia and he said certain parts of his network will benefit from this government funding.

He added: "It's going to help, but it's not going to be the be all and end all of everything we built."