Superfast Cymru, a project by the Welsh government and BT, has marked the first anniversary of its launch by announcing that more than 100,000 homes and businesses in Wales are expected to have access to high speed fibre broadband as a direct result of the project by the end of the year (view press release).
Fifty seven towns and rural communities have already ‘gone live’ with fibre or are in the process of being upgraded as part of the programme.
A further 63 communities are scheduled to go live by the end of spring 2014, increasing the number of premises able to take advantage of the technology by then to around 230,000 (see Notes to Editors for details of which communities will benefit). Work will be underway in all 22 unitary authorities in Wales by early spring 2015.
The project was launched in July last year and will help the Welsh Government achieve its aim of taking fibre broadband to 96 per cent of homes and businesses in Wales by the end of spring 2016.
BT also promised to create 100 new apprenticeships and said it would offer 900 young people a week’s work experience over the life of the project. So far 58 new apprentices have been taken on and more than 400 weeks of work experience has been provided to youngsters the length and breadth of Wales.
Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, said: “I cannot emphasise just how important it is for businesses, in particular, to have access to fast, reliable broadband services to enhance their productivity and support their infrastructure.
“Since we launched Superfast Cymru a huge amount of planning and engineering work has taken place to connect our homes and businesses. Clearly, there is still a long way to go before we reach our 2016 target, but I’m delighted to hear that companies are already reporting improvements in their connectivity.
“I’m also very pleased to see that BT is well on its way to delivering on its promise to create 100 new apprenticeships and 900 work experience opportunities. This is great news for young people across Wales and gives them a foothold in the rapidly expanding telecommunications industry.”
Engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, will have laid around 17,500 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installed around 3,000 new fibre broadband cabinets in streets the length and breadth of Wales by the time the project is completed.
Liv Garfield, chief executive of Openreach, added: “This is an exciting journey for Wales and we are making great progress with supercharging the country’s broadband speeds.
“This project is already enabling businesses in rural as well as urban communities in Wales to grow and compete on a level playing field with competitors anywhere in the world and providing a myriad of opportunities for families to explore new horizons and applications that will enrich their lives.
“This is a complex project that has required meticulous planning and hard work, but we have been working closely with the Welsh Government and our efforts are now really starting to pay off.”
Bangor was the first community to go live in February as part of the Superfast Cymru project and other communities in North West Wales, including Caernarfon, Menai Bridge, Porthmadog and Pwllheli, have followed with more to come in that area and in other parts of Wales in the near future.
North Wales business Cwmni Da was quick to take advantage of fibre broadband and is now reaping the benefits. The TV production, company based in Caernarfon, was switched on in May and senior designer Iestyn Lloyd explained: “It has transformed our business and production has gone through the roof.
“We often had to travel to other premises to download files, seriously impacting on our schedules. Now we are now getting average download speeds of 60Mbps download and significantly increased upload speeds – so fast, in fact, that there are no interruptions in the day, no time is lost and we can offer a better service to our customers.”
Fibre broadband provides speeds many times faster than previously available in these communities with ultra-fast broadband providing an even bigger improvement should businesses require it.
The high-speed network installed by Openreach will be available on an equal, wholesale basis to all companies providing broadband services to homes and businesses.