Connecting Devon and Somerset Announces Biggest Single Investment in Full Fibre in the UK

Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS), the largest Government funded superfast broadband programme in the UK, has today signed new contracts with Ultrafast broadband provider Gigaclear, for four of the six lots on offer under phase two of its roll-out.

This will deliver a £62.25m million network to an additional 35,225 of the hardest to reach homes and businesses across the region by 2019. The winning bidders for the two remaining lots will be announced early in the New Year.

The new contracts mean that homes and businesses will be able to access speeds of up to 1Gbps.

Council leaders are hailing the contract terms as ‘unparalleled’ and a ‘great deal’ for local communities, both in terms of the speed of broadband service that they will receive when the programme is rolled out, and the scale of private sector funding which amounts to £43.75 million across the four lots, more than two thirds of the total spend for these lots within the second phase programme.

The phase two procurement has been divided into six lots to encourage greater competition from a broader range of providers and technologies. Gigaclear is set to bring the best broadband speeds in the UK to 35,225 homes and businesses in an area from Northern Somerset through to South Devon using a full fibre network. Some areas of Devon and Somerset currently experience very slow broadband speeds, but with Gigaclear able to provide speeds up to 33 times faster than the UK average*, residents and businesses will see a major improvement.

Once connected, residents will be able to download a movie in less than one minute, upload 200 holiday photos in under nine seconds, or download an album in just a few seconds.

Meanwhile, rural business owners could transform the way they work with faster broadband, enabling them to increase business and cut costs without compromising on their location.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, commented: “The announcement of these contracts represents one of the largest deployments of its type in the country and a major step forwards in the delivery of faster, future-proofed broadband across the region.  The scheme demonstrates that alternative approaches can help us take superfast capability to the hardest to reach areas in Devon and Somerset, and I’m very pleased that Gigaclear will be coming to the region for the next phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset rollout.

“We have worked extremely hard to secure the greatest deal possible for our communities in terms of value for money and speed of broadband service.  It also supports our earlier decision to re-engage in the market through an open procurement process.”

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, added: “This unparalleled contract is great news for Devon and Somerset. We are determined to provide world class broadband to residents and businesses as part of our strategy to open the broadband market to greater competition and innovation. Thanks to this new partnership with Gigaclear, tens of thousands will benefit from some of the fastest speeds across the country, providing significant lifestyle and economic benefits. It will encourage competition and drive up performance in the market that can only benefit consumers across the two counties.”

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture said: “This full fibre project will deliver a tremendous boost to the broadband speeds of thousands of homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset. It will be instrumental in driving growth and will deliver a welcome boost to the local economy. I’m very pleased to see smaller suppliers are now competing for, and winning, contracts for the next phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset rollout.”

Matthew Hare, Chief Executive at Gigaclear, said: “The signing of contracts marks the beginning of what will be one of the biggest rural full fibre-to-the-premises network rollouts ever to have taken place in the UK, a project we are hugely proud to be part of. Working in partnership with Devon and Somerset County Councils, we can now set the wheels in motion to build a futureproof network, that’s 100% pure fibre, directly to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Gigaclear provides a Gigabit network connection at every property we pass, making sure that no one is left behind.”

Steve Hindley, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP), which part-funded the project through its Growth Deal and Growing Places Fund, said:

“Connectivity is a major barrier to productivity growth in the Heart of the South West, which covers Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, so the LEP is committed to improving road, rail and broadband through our Growth Deal funding and our strategic influence on central government.

“Therefore, we’re really pleased that this project is about to get underway. It’s a great example of the unique projects delivered through the partnership that build on the distinctive assets of this area.”

Further information regarding the outcome of the procurement of the remaining lots (1 and 4) will be made in the New Year. Detailed information for residents and businesses about the roll out of phase 2 will also be made available in the New Year.

*Based on Ofcom’s review of UK broadband speeds published 1st December 2015.

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