The government has announced that eight companies have been awarded a share of a £10m funding pot to test new ways of delivering rural broadband. The trials should help ensure a further £225m for rural broadband projects will be spent adequately.
The government announced plans to release the funding last year as it looks for ways other than fixed broadband services in order to ensure remote regions in hard-to-reach areas can access high-speed broadband services.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) revealed that a variety of different technologies and funding models have received funding, with satellite and mobile services key among the technologies that will be trialled.
Wireless services will be tested by three firms: AB Internet, Airwave and Quickline. The firms received funding of £847,650, £1.564m, £2m, respectively, and will carry outwork in Wales, North Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
Meanwhile satellite will be tested in Northern Ireland and Scotland by Avanti, which will get £885,640 in funding, while a firm called Satellite Internet, who will receive £175,125, is to run trials in Devon and Somerset.
The other technology trial will be run by a firm called Call Flow in Hampshire, backed by £1.2m in funding. It will test a mix of fibre and fixed wireless technologies, as the DCMS explained.
"[The trial will test] a range of innovative ‘hybrid’ engineering techniques and solutions to achieve NGA [next-generation access] delivery, such as: sub loop unbundling of cabinets, building a significant fibre network that connects as many of the deployed ‘SLU node areas’ together as possible, NGA delivery using fixed wireless access and fibre to the premises."
Culture secretary Sajid Javid said the trials were a key part of the government’s intention to bring broadband to as many people in the UK as possible.
“Our nationwide rollout is progressing at a terrific rate and each week superfast speeds are becoming a reality for tens of thousands of homes and businesses in rural areas across the UK,” he said.
“We know how important this has become, which is why we are investing £10m in these pilots to explore how we can extend coverage beyond the 95 percent of the UK we are on track to deliver by 2017.”
The trials are backed by the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), with chief executive Malcolm Corbett claiming they would be vital in the ongoing improvements of the UK's digital infrastructure.
"This is a very useful initiative and we are keen to help local authorities and INCA members learn from the trials," he said. "There is a huge amount of experience, professionalism and entrepreneurial enthusiasm in the independent sector that can play a big role in creating Britain’s future digital infrastructure."
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