Project Gigabit picks up pace with Quickline rollout

Quickline has connected the first homes to its Project Gigabit-funded full fibre network in Yorkshire less than three months after winning the contract.

Mary Lennighan

May 15, 2024

3 Min Read

While that might not appear to be a particularly noteworthy achievement – we are talking about a handful of premises here – it serves as a sign that the UK government's fibre broadband funding scheme is finally starting to pick up the pace.

The government has been blowing its own trumpet on Project Gigabit pretty hard over the past few years, repeatedly making reference to the £5 billion it is spending to subsidise the rollout of fibre to hard-to-reach areas, despite the fact that until recently none of the contract winners had actually broken ground. But things started to happen in the second half of last year and as of January this year, according to data from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), there were 4,500 homes passed by high-speed broadband through Project Gigabit.

That's not a huge number – far from it – but it was an important indication that things were starting to move in the right direction. And Quickline's announcement this week reinforces that.

The operator said it has connected the first tranche of premises in Escrick, a small rural community to the south of the city of York. It did not specify how many, but we're presuming it's just a few; the whole community only has around 380 households. The remainder of the village will be hooked up "over the coming weeks and months," Quickline said.

To illustrate the nature of the location, Quickline pointed out that the community has very few local services and no mains gas supply. And for good measure, it added a quote from one of the lucky residents in the first tranche of the build, highlighting the importance of full fibre broadband in such communities.

The homes in question come under the £60 million funding package Quickline won in February, with which it will roll out full fibre to 28,000 hard-to-reach homes and businesses in West Yorkshire and the York area, including communities in North and East Yorkshire that it says have been left behind by commercial rollouts.

The network builder has also committed to ploughing in its own cash to extend fibre to an additional 58,000 premises that fall outside of its Project Gigabit remit, but are presumably made more commercially viable as a result of the work Quickline will do under the project.

Quickline has also secured a second Project Gigabit contract, picking up a £44.4 million funding award in March to cover 32,100 premises in South Yorkshire. Doubtless we'll hear about the first connections there when the time comes.

That award was one of 15 made under Project Gigabit in 2024 so far. As a result, by the end of April the government had awarded £1.38 billion of funding covering 784,600 premises, since the first deal was inked in August 2022. Naturally though it is still hammering that £5 billion total figure, which it looks to be some years off hitting, if the current rate of progress is anything to go by.

But Quickline at least seems to be living up to its name and focusing on speed-to-market.

"Winning the government Project Gigabit contract was a huge honour for us at Quickline but importantly, we want to ensure we make an impact quickly. That means we are building straight away, connecting customers straight away and taking communities out of the slow lane faster than other providers," said company CEO Sean Royce. "As a dedicated rural provider, we know there are thousands of people who have long been underserved by decent broadband and it is imperative this is addressed as soon as possible."

It's good to see a UK company with a sense of urgency when it comes to rolling out fibre.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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