The UK government is allocating an additional £7 million to explore broadband technologies that could help bridge the country’s connectivity gaps, particularly in rural areas. The funding, directed towards trials of satellite, fixed wireless access (FWA), and fixed-line solutions, is aimed at providing reliable broadband to agricultural and rural tourism businesses. The investment is in addition to the £8 million the government dedicated in April for satellite broadband connectivity in remote communities.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey stated that rural areas contribute over £250 billion to England’s economy alone, and the government is committed to supporting rural businesses and communities in building a sustainable future.
It is important to note that a small but noticeable difference remains between urban and rural areas in terms of broadband speed and availability due to the economics of network deployment. Ofcom’s latest figures in January showed that 68,000 premises were still unable to access a ‘decent’ broadband service, defined as one offering 10 Mbps downlink and 1 Mbps uplink throughput. Moreover, it is worth considering that ‘decent’ broadband is dependent on the types of services it can support, and as services become more advanced and data-intensive, the demand for greater broadband capabilities increases.
Furthermore, geographic mobile coverage notspots account for around 8% of the UK landmass, with a more significant presence in Wales and Scotland, amounting to 9% and 17% respectively.
Chloe Smith, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology, emphasized the importance of rural communities to the UK economy and highlighted the potential of the £7 million fund announced in the rural action plan to combine satellite, wireless, and fixed-line solutions to boost connectivity for farmers and rural businesses.
Additionally, the government has announced the winners of this year’s Transport Research and Innovation Grant (TRIG) programme, awarding £1.96 million to support tech companies focusing on innovative transport-related solutions. Since its launch in 2014, TRIG has made £12 million available to nearly 300 projects.