Ultrafast broadband plans for new phase of work confirmed

Ultrafast programme to continue across Essex

Full fibre broadband is on its way for several thousand more homes and businesses in Essex as a result of a new phase of the Superfast Essex programme.

Essex County Council has signed three new contracts with network operator Openreach to bring ultrafast fibre broadband to more than 3,700 homes and businesses under a Phase 4b of the broadband programme.

The work has been made possible by a £5million grant awarded from DEFRA’s Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to provide ultrafast broadband to just under 1,000 rural businesses in Essex. In addition, Openreach has confirmed a further 2,700 homes will benefit from a full fibre network upgrade as a result of its own commercial investment. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EARFD) contributes funds to the RDPE.

Phase 4b is split into three separate contracts, which will include upgrades to some parts of the following local authority areas:

  • 4b.4 will include parts of Brentwood, Chelmsford, Harlow and Uttlesford
  • 4b.5 will include parts of Castle Point, Colchester, Maldon, Rochford and Tendring
  • 4b.6 will include parts of Thurrock

Work is due to start in July 2020 and complete by March 2021 for 4b.4 and 4b.5. Work in Thurrock under 4b.6 is due to start in October 2020 and complete by December 2020.

The additional network upgrades will add to the existing and planned superfast broadband coverage being enabled by the Superfast Essex programme, bringing the new total to be reached after all current plans are complete to 158,300 homes and businesses.

The technology rolled out by Openreach under the Superfast Essex programme has historically included mostly Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) upgrades but most of the remaining network build, including all of Phase 4b, will be completed using the latest ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology. And once built, the network will provide broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps – enough bandwidth for a family of four to all stream ultra HD or 4k quality movies or TV simultaneously, without waiting or buffering.

Cllr Lesley Wagland, Deputy Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, and Chairman of the Superfast Essex Steering Board, said: “This is fantastic news for Essex. Full fibre broadband is the next step in connectivity and future-proofed for years to come. It will help rural businesses to grow and thrive in the growing digital market. It’s great to know that residents in rural areas will also benefit from this new phase of work. Improved broadband connectivity brings with it better access to online public services and greater social and business opportunities all of which contribute to a better quality of life which is what we want for our residents.”

The Superfast Essex programme has so far enabled 125,000 homes and businesses to access superfast broadband in Essex with its network delivery partners Openreach and Gigaclear across 10 contracts, eight of which are still ongoing. Phase 4b will increase the total of live contracts with Openreach alone to eight.

Carl Sproston, Regional Partnership Director for Openreach, said: “We are proud of the work we’ve already done in Essex both commercially and in partnership with Essex County Council, and we’re delighted to be bringing our full fibre technology to even more people living and working in the county, making a huge difference to their lives.

“This is all made possible by our engineering workforce. We employ over 3,200 people in the East of England and have employed 123 new engineering recruits from Essex alone in the last 15 months.  It was great to show our partners at Essex County Council and Superfast Essex around our purpose-built training centre at Peterborough, which is where all local recruits will receive their training.  Like us, the recruits are keen to get out there and start building our 21st century infrastructure to more people in Essex.”

To find out if your address is able to access superfast speeds or due to be upgraded as part of the Superfast Essex programme, visit the Superfast Essex interactive map. If fibre broadband is available, remember nobody is automatically connected, you have to contact a service provider and ask to upgrade.

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