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Hampshire County Council and Openreach unveil lightning fast broadband plan Project Gigabit

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THOUSANDS of households across Hampshire could have lightning fast broadband by the end of this decade.

At a recent select committee meeting, Hampshire County Council and Openreach unveiled their plans for Project Gigabit, a scheme set to bring internet speeds of 1,000mbps to more than 500,000 properties across the county, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

It comes roughly 10 years after a similar scheme was run for superfast broadband, which is 100 times slower than what is now proposed.

Project Gigabit is set to bring lightning-fast broadband to Hampshire homes
Project Gigabit is set to bring lightning-fast broadband to Hampshire homes

Current superfast broadband runs on fibre cables, but only up to the green cabinets in the street.

This new system, set to be implemented by 2028, will have fibre-optic cables right across the network, with Openreach looking to reach 500,000 homes through its commercial investment programme.

Some of these homes have already been reached via the previous Superfast Hampshire project.

Glenn Peacy from HCC’s broadband programme, said: "Over the past 10 years we have delivered broadband upgrades to 115,000 properties covering 97.4% of Hampshire.

"Building Digital UK has allocated £215m for Hampshire, and Hampshire County Council has allocated a further £1.4m for the project so far.

"At the moment we know the footprint they want the procurement for and how many houses will be covered, but we don’t know much more than that for the time being."

But once the project is completed, it will not automatically mean gigabit speeds for everyone.

Instead, it depends on the broadband packages people are paying for.

Connie Dixon, from Openreach, said: "Full fibre is capable of gigabit speeds, but once we build the network we sell it to service providers like BT, Sky, Virgin Media and so on.

"People then have the option to pay for a package that will allow them to access these speeds."

Openreach said it is "ramping up" staff levels and training programmes in order to get its engineers up to speed.

Ms Dixon told the select committee there is a "phenomenal" demand, but doubled down on her company’s capability.

The procurement will go out to tender in August, allowing companies to bid for the construction contracts – which will be awarded next year.

Some rural communities are also set to miss out on the scheme, including the villages of Bighton and Gundleton, near New Alresford.

Mr Peacy said: "Broadband infrastructure isn’t just about the devices you hold, but about the power in communities.

"Not having these speeds really does cut you off from the modern world."

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