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State to spend £10 million out of £200 million budget on six pilot projects, but details of what those projects will entail are scarce

The U.K. government on Sunday named the first regions that will benefit from funding it allocated to fibre rollout earlier this year, but the announcement marks a very small step, accounting for just 5% of the available funding.

The state will spend £10 million on six pilot projects to deploy fibre-to-the-premises – or full fibre, as it likes to call it – to homes and businesses. The test projects will take place in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire; West Sussex; Coventry and Warwickshire; Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset; West Yorkshire; and Greater Manchester.

They form the first phase of a £200 million, four-year projected spend unveiled by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond at the government’s spring budget in March. The overall aim of the project is to explore ways to accelerate the rollout of FTTP.

"We want to see more commercial investment in the gold standard connectivity that full fibre provides, and these innovative pilots will help create the right environment for this to happen," said minister of state for digital Matt Hancock, at the weekend.

"We need to have the right infrastructure in place to allow us to keep up with the rapid advances in technology now and in the future," he said.

The government did not provide any further details of the six pilots, but waxed lyrical about the possible benefits of fibre connectivity for schools, hospitals and businesses.

When it announced the £200 million fund, the government said it aims to bring together local public sector customers, to create enough broadband demand to reduce the financial risk of building new full-fibre networks; offer full-fibre broadband connection vouchers for businesses, to increase take-up of services where new networks are built through the programme; connect public sector buildings, such as schools and hospitals, thereby also bringing fibre closers to more homes and businesses; and open up public sector assets, such as existing ducts, to allow fibre to be laid more cheaply.

The government confirmed it expects to spend the remaining £190 million by 2020-2021.

Matt Hancock drew a large audience at Total Telecom’s Connected Britain event earlier this year. Connected Britain 2018 moves to a bigger venue, the Business Design Centre in London, on 19-20 June 2018.

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