press release | Welsh Assembly Government | Wales to achieve blanket broadband coverage | 14/03/2006
The Welsh Assembly Government has today announced that the BT Group has been selected to provide the broadband infrastructure for the remaining exchange areas in Wales.
This landmark development is a major step towards 100% broadband coverage – a remarkable achievement that will position Wales as one of the few countries in the world at this level.
The Assembly Government’s Regional Innovative Broadband Support Scheme (RIBS) is designed to enable those areas of Wales described as ‘broadband blackspots’.
This is fantastic news for approximately 10,000 households and businesses who will receive access to at least first-generation (512kbps to 2mbps) broadband services at prices comparable with urban areas of Wales. Work will begin immediately, and once complete, virtually every single household in Wales will have access to broadband for fast downloads, video conferencing, Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and an infinite range of business and entertainment uses.
Andrew Davies, Minister for Economic Development and Transport and eMinister for the Welsh Assembly Government says, "currently, around 99% of the Welsh population can access broadband technology – a remarkable achievement in its own right. However, the Assembly Government is committed to ensuring that virtually every single individual and business in Wales has the opportunity to benefit from the advantages offered by this technology.
In addition, broadband uptake in Wales has grown substantially, almost doubling over the past 12 months, reflecting the huge appetite for broadband in Wales and underpinning our economic transformation to a dynamic, knowledge-driven economy.
‘Today’s announcement will lead to further growth in broadband uptake as these final unviable exchange areas are enabled.’
‘This landmark announcement will now push Wales across the line in meeting our target of developing a competitive and sustainable broadband infrastructure for Wales by March 2007.
‘This is particularly significant when you look at figures for broadband connectivity across other European countries, for example, in Ireland, where only about 18.0% of the population have broadband connections.’
"With Wales clearly leading the way in broadband access, we are setting the scene for continued and sustainable growth as an innovative, knowledge economy that is not only benefiting indigenous companies, but attracting inward investment from some of the UK’s and Europe’s best businesses," he said.
Ann Beynon, Director BT Wales, added "BT is pleased to be working with the Welsh Assembly Government on completing the broadband map in Wales. BT, like the Welsh Assembly Government, is contributing to the cost of enabling these final exchanges and without the Assembly’s assistance, the upgrading would not have been commercially viable. But work will not stop with the upgrading of these exchanges. The next step is to ensure the technology is adopted as widely as possible to reap maximum benefit. We need to demonstrate to Internet users that whatever you do online you can do it better with broadband."
Work to equip the remaining BT exchange areas with broadband will commence immediately, including selected infrastructure improvements with the majority of exchanges enabled by the end of Summer 2006.
The contract will bring these exchange areas into BT's National broadband network so they can be upgraded to newer technologies, which will effectively level the playing field with all other exchange areas in the country. As faster broadband speeds become more widely available, the exchanges will be upgraded with the same technologies being deployed elsewhere in Wales and the UK, which means that these exchange areas will have the capability to offer ever faster broadband as technology develops.
The broadband rollout will be implemented in a two-staged approach. Stage one will concentrate on enabling the final exchange areas. Once this work is completed, there will still be a small proportion of the population who live inside enabled exchange areas but still cannot access broadband.
As a result, stage two of the rollout will then focus on identifying these remaining blackspots and exploring ways of bringing broadband to these residents. These people should register their details on the Broadband Brokerage website at www.bbwo.org.uk or www.abec.org.uk. This impartial market information pin-point their communities for future rollout.
RIBS is part-financed by the European Union Objective One Programme through the Welsh Assembly Government.