Tens of thousands of people in rural Cambridgeshire will enjoy access to lightning-fast broadband after a major contract was signed to upgrade the county’s network as part of Project Gigabit.

Minister of State for Data and Digital Infrastructure Julia Lopez visits Cambridge
  • Work begins on £122 million plan to upgrade hard-to-reach areas across Cambridgeshire to lightning-fast broadband
  • Full fibre builder CityFibre to deliver connections to around 45,000 rural homes and businesses as part the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit
  • Part of Prime Minister’s pledge to grow the economy, roll out will benefit villages and hamlets around Ely, Newmarket, Royston, Huntingdon and many other areas

Tens of thousands of people in rural Cambridgeshire will enjoy access to lightning-fast broadband after a major contract was signed to upgrade the county’s network as part of Project Gigabit – the government’s £5 billion roll out to hard-to-reach areas.

Around 45,000 premises across the county and surrounding areas are in line for gigabit-capable full fibre connections – capable of speeds more than 30 times faster than superfast broadband – thanks to a £69 million contract under Project Gigabit.

The contract, one of the largest to date, will unlock a further £53 million commercial investment from CityFibre, the UK’s largest independent full fibre provider, to expand their network.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:

Thanks to our record-breaking roll out Project Gigabit, rural homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire can be confident they won’t be left behind in the upgrade to top-of-the-range gigabit broadband.

This landmark deal with CityFibre will help deliver the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy by ensuring the county’s pioneering science and tech industries can unleash their full potential with lightning-quick connectivity, whether in the city or the countryside.

Project Gigabit is the biggest broadband roll out in British history, backed with up to £5 billion to deliver faster connections to hard-to-reach areas that would otherwise have missed out. Gigabit-capable networks are fast and fit for the future, allowing users to work, stream and scroll online without the battle for bandwidth or disruption often experienced with ageing networks.

Detailed planning in Cambridgeshire has already begun and the first Project Gigabit connections are expected in early 2024.

As part of its private investment, CityFibre has committed an additional £300,000 local stimulus package to create local jobs and provide training – including construction and engineering internships for disadvantaged groups such as armed forces leavers, people with disabilities and those affected by Covid.

The package will also provide free connectivity to 50 local charities and social enterprises and help those who have trouble using digital technology – often due to the cost or a lack of skills – by increasing their access to digital skills training and equipment.

Aided by government policies to encourage and drive investment in broadband roll out, CityFibre already has extensive coverage in Cambridgeshire where it has so far committed more than £100 million of investment, completing roll outs in Peterborough and March, and with deployment well underway across the county.

CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch said:

Having already rolled out full fibre to 2.5 million homes in towns and cities across the country, we know just how important it is that rural communities and internet service providers are freed of their dependency on creaking copper networks and finally able to enjoy the benefits of fast and reliable digital connectivity.

That’s why we are delighted that CityFibre has been selected by the government as a partner in its Project Gigabit Programme. We look forward to a long and effective partnership in this exciting programme which supports not only rural connectivity, but a healthy competitive market for the long term, benefiting consumers and business nationwide.

Cllr Lorna Dupré, Chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Environment and Green Investment Committee, which oversees the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, said:

Improved digital infrastructure is crucial for our county and given the significant economic and social benefits for Cambridgeshire I am delighted that we are among the first areas in the country to benefit from the Government’s Project Gigabit funding.

Access to fast, reliable internet connectivity should no longer be a luxury. It is a basic necessity for all our residents, local businesses and the delivery of public services This initiative will greatly enhance the region’s digital infrastructure and support economic growth, education and innovation.

The £122 million investment will support our ambition for our businesses to have the leading-edge digital connectivity needed to help them succeed and grow sustainably, and for our communities, particularly in rural and harder to reach areas, to be digitally connected so that residents can access education, jobs, health, social care and other public services.

Today’s announcement follows more than £160 million worth of contracts already signed in locations right across England, including Cumbria, Teesdale, Northumberland, Dorset and Cornwall. More than 73 per cent of the UK can access gigabit-capable connections, a huge rise on three years ago when coverage stood at just six per cent.


Notes to Editors

Across the UK, 73.5% of premises are now able to access gigabit-capable broadband, up from 6% in early 2019, according to thinkbroadband (as of 15 Feb 2023).

Benefits from CityFibre’s local stimulus investment include:

  • A £200,000 Digital Futures Fund will identify charity and third sector partners to provide grants which offer innovative solutions to those who are digitally disadvantaged – increasing access, skills and equipment
  • £100,000 will be allocated to fund construction and engineering internships targeting disadvantaged groups those affected by Covid, service leavers, people with disabilities and young people
  • Free connectivity to 50 third sector sites. These will be prioritised to support partnerships and connections developed within the local charity and social enterprise network during the course of the build
  • 50 apprenticeships of 18-month duration with CityFibre’s local build partners
  • CityFibre will also work experience for 60 young people following Construction or Digital Pathways T-levels

Project Gigabit

Project Gigabit is the government’s flagship £5 billion programme to enable hard-to-reach communities to access lightning-fast gigabit-capable broadband. It targets homes and businesses that are not included in broadband suppliers’ plans, reaching parts of the UK that might otherwise miss out on getting the digital connectivity they need.

By the end of 2025, the government is targeting 85% of the UK to have gigabit-capable connectivity, and then nationwide coverage by 2030.

As the drive to deliver gigabit-capable connections intensifies, over recent months several multi-million pound local and regional Project Gigabit contracts have been awarded covering locations including Cornwall, Cumbria, North Dorset, Teesdale and North Northumberland.

Areas including Hampshire, Shropshire, Norfolk and Suffolk are all in line for contract awards by summer 2023.

About CityFibre

CityFibre is the UK’s largest independent Full Fibre infrastructure platform, providing carrier-neutral digital infrastructure to its wholesale customers and enabling ultra-fast, reliable and futureproof broadband, ethernet and 5G services to serve homes and businesses as well as schools, hospitals and GPs surgeries.

CityFibre’s Full Fibre network rollout programme is on track to serve up to a third of the UK by 2025; representing up to 8m homes, 800k businesses, 400k local authority sites and 250k 5G access points. CityFibre has already announced 285 cities, towns and villages that will receive a transformational digital upgrade as part of the nationwide rollout.

As the only 100% Full Fibre wholesale network in the UK, CityFibre is trusted by major Internet Service Providers and mobile operators including TalkTalk, Three, Vodafone and Zen as well as a new generation of smaller regional ISPs dedicated to delivering Full Fibre Broadband.

CityFibre is based in London and is owned by Antin Infrastructure Partners, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Mubadala Investment Company and Interogo Holding.

About Connecting Cambridgeshire

The Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, hosted by Cambridgeshire County Council with funding from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and the Greater Cambridge Partnership, is driving improvements to Cambridgeshire’s digital connectivity infrastructure – for fibre broadband, mobile and public access Wifi coverage – and using smart technology to support economic growth and help businesses and communities to thrive.

This multi-agency programme, is working with Government bodies, local councils, and external organisations, including telecoms suppliers, mobile operators and technology experts to make it easier to access public services, and help meet some of the key challenges of our age – including climate change mitigation, sustainable transport and the management of water and energy resources. For more information visit connectingcambridgeshire.co.uk.

Published 21 March 2023