Superfast broadband pilots for final 5% of UK to start early 2015

Eight pilot projects aimed at testing how best to make superfast broadband available to the 5% of the UK not covered by the first and second phase of the government’s superfast broadband programme will be deployed soon.

Phase one aims to provide superfast broadband to 90% of homes and businesses by 2016, and phase two aims to extend this to 95% by 2017. The pilot projects will look at the options for serving the most difficult to reach rural areas by 2020.

The government set up a £10million innovation fund last year to "test innovative ways to help take broadband to Britain's most remote communities". These range from fixed wireless broadband to satellite broadband to wireless hybrid fibre. The winning bids were announced in the summer, and now the projects are ready to get properly underway.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is responsible for broadband, said: "Eight pilot projects completed a feasibility phase in September 2014. Pilot projects that prove to be technically and financially viable will begin deployment in early 2015. These pilots will test how to expand coverage in areas where the commercial investment case is weakest; the final 5%."

Broadband Delivery UK, the part of the DCMS supervising the government's superfast broadband programme, has previously said the eight pilots will help them to determine how much funding will be needed to reach 100% superfast broadband coverage by the end of the decade. The forthcoming general election means a decision on this is likely to be announced before May.

Funding for the individual pilots, which will take place in Devon, Hampshire, Kent, Northern Ireland, North Lincolnshire, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Scotland, Somerset and Wales, ranges from £175,000 to £2million.

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Sources: GOV.UK, ISP Review

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