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£95 million up for grabs to increase amount of full fibre for Local Authorities

30 August 2018

The Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) Challenge Fund started with £190 million of funding as part of a drive from the Chancellor to fund to the tune of £1 billion a lot more building of full fibre networks.

The LFFN has had two previous rounds and this third one is slightly different as there is no set date deadline, so local authorities that missed previous rounds or had trouble putting together a bid within the deadlines will have another opportunity to bring some more money from Westminster to their area.

The LFFN while around one third the value of the original BDUK funding is a very different beast and a wide mixture of uses of the fund mean that the average residential user is probably not going to be very aware of the impact of the scheme, or that impact is only going to appear in a few years.

We recently set out our ambition for a nationwide full-fibre broadband network by 2033, and initiatives like this will be instrumental in achieving that. We want to hear from any local authority interested in taking part, so we can work closely with them on their plans to help them secure funding.

Minister for Digital, Margot James

The key areas that will be considered in each application for money from the fund are as follows:

  • Rural focus: Projects demonstrating the effectiveness of Local Full Fibre Networks delivery in rural locations and hard-to-reach areas
  • 5G or Barrier Busting: Projects focused on overcoming obstacles to the commercial roll-out of fibre and 5G
  • Public Sector Productivity: Projects targeting improvements to public sector services, such as enabling schools to access new cloud based educational tools, or allowing medical professionals to remotely monitor patient health
  • Market Development: Projects deliberately targeting the development of the full-fibre market in a particular area, including incentivising aggregation

Some local authorities do seem to be using the fund to upgrade their existing connectivity between sites, but with emerging full fibre operators winning those contracts there is scope for them to supply businesses in the area too and then potentially if the full fibre operator decides to they may deploy fibre to the home for residents in an area. This means that the full impact of the fund may not materialise until a few years time.

For most people reading this, the Gigabit voucher scheme will be of more interest, which is a Government backed scheme with £67 million of funding with businesses able to claim up to £3,000 for a Gigabit capable connection and residential users of the scheme £500 when working in a group.

Some of community schemes we have covered in the news have made use of these vouchers and we are seeing some use for the Openreach Fibre on Demand product too, the list of suppliers is long but a number are restricting themselves to certain parts of the UK.

A parting few thoughts on the way Gigabit capable is being used, there is a danger with the increased use of the words 'Gigabit capable' that a lot of the public is going to assume that full fibre will always provider a Gigabit (1000 Mega bits per second) connection, the reality is that the speed you get will depend on the price you want to pay, or some operators may sell you a cheap Gigabit connection but it is contended so that you only really see the Gigabit when the rest of your building/area is asleep. The industry and government needs to be clear, that while full fibre does not suffer the distance issues or radio interference that DSL over twisted metallic pairs does, that peak time slow downs and contention are still a reality. The current metallic local loops are evil and antiquated campaigns all too often overlook the reality that DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 with the later being Gigabit capable are fixed speed services.


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